Shaikh Mohammad presents the UAE Pioneer Award to six-year-old writer Hafsa Surour on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, yesterday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Forty-five distinguished Emirati groups and individuals were honoured on Monday by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the UAE Pioneers Award held in Abu Dhabi for their work in promoting the culture of reading in the UAE.

The UAE Pioneers Award was established by Shaikh Mohammad in 2014 and has since then become an annual event that celebrates and recognises the work of Emiratis in their fields of work that have helped them excel in the UAE.

Shaikh Mohammad expressed his pride in the reading initiatives and programmes that were launched after President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan declared 2016 as the Year of Reading.

“Today we honour top pioneers who supported culture and reading in the UAE. We are proud of their efforts in nurturing a generation that reads and is well educated. We look forward to their contributions for the future of the UAE and the sustainability of its growth,” said Shaikh Mohammad.

Shaikh Mohammad stressed that efforts are ongoing to consolidate the UAE as a global capital for culture and knowledge, stating that the UAE will reap the fruits of this goal soon.

During the ceremony, the Vice-President received a copy of ‘The Beautiful Farm’, a book written by six-year-old Hafsa Surour, who is the youngest author in the UAE. Shaikh Mohammad wished the young author, and her peers with similar promising talents, success in the field of innovation, so that the UAE can have a new generation of gifted people who contribute to enriching the innovation scene in the UAE in particular, and region in general.

This year’s edition was dedicated to institutions and persons who had taken part in the UAE’s Year of Reading, with the honouring ceremony attended by several high-ranking ministers including Lt Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. Both ministers were also among the 45 chosen awardees at the event.


A culture of reading in the UAE

Dedicating the 2016 UAE Pioneer Award towards reading comes as part of a broader effort by the UAE to promote the culture of reading within the country. 2016 was declared as the Year of Reading and the country also issued a new law called the National Reading Law which aims to further promote reading in the UAE through several official government mandated programmes.

Shaikh Mohammad has also announced plans to build the Arab world’s largest public library in Dubai which will open in 2017. The Mohammad Bin Rashid Library, costing Dh1 billion, will contain more than 4.5 million printed, audio, and e-books when complete.

The Winners

Shaikh Sultan Bin Ahmad Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation

Shaikh Sultan was honoured for the organisation’s educational and cultural contributions over decades since its establishment.

“Sharjah has always been the capital of culture, education and science, and today we feel very proud for being honoured for our overall efforts and contributions to programmes and content at the network that promote all of those ideals.

“We really want to lead by example among other Arab countries in promoting reading among all societies and not just the UAE. One of the programmes we were awarded for is ‘Fi Hadret Al Kitab’ — (in the presence of the book), which hosts book writers and novelists, who talk about the books they have written and published.”


Huda Amer Sraieb, Principal at Australian International School in Sharjah

Awarded for the schools programme in promoting the Arabic language

“Winning this award is special and makes our school very proud because we really worked very hard in creating programmes to promote reading at our school, and to get this reward is a testament to the efforts we have put in.

“Shaikh Mohammad is always supporting education initiatives in the country, and we are happy to be a part of that. If we want to change the world for the better then investing in education and reading must be the focus. 2016 has been declared the Year of Reading, but this does not mean we only read for one year and move on, reading is something we should day every day and every moment.

“The programmes we have launched at our school were to promote the Arabic language, and we used many different resources and genres in story-telling to raise the interest levels in the Arabic language among our young students. All of the data we have compiled so far have shown very good results among our programmes and so we hope to keep such programmes in place because we believe the Arabic language is special. Winning this award will definitely act as a motivation now for us to continue our work, as educators we are very honoured that our school is among the list of UAE pioneers in the field of reading.”


Isobel Abulhoul, CEO & Trustee of Emirates Literature Foundation and Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Living in the UAE since 1968, Isobel Abulhoul, from the UK, and CEO & Trustee of Emirates Literature Foundation and Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word.

“I met my Emirati husband in Dubai when I first arrived in the UAE, and since then I fell in love not just with him, but with the country. This is a very promising country where there are great opportunities for everyone, and honestly speaking I have to reward them for everything they have given me, I feel very privileged and I’m passionate about reading and education.

“I have been teaching for so long, and I encourage everyone to pick up a book of their choice and read, this is the advice I give my three grandchildren, Saif, 5, Suliman, 2 and Idris, 1.

“I am very grateful for this award and I hope to be able to pass on the passion and love of reading to future generations.”


Rashid Mohammad Al Kous, general manager of Knowledge Without Borders

“I’m just overwhelmed, it’s an incredible feeling to be awarded among the UAE Pioneers for 2016 for the work we’ve done, on setting up 31,500 home libraries and distributing a total number of 1,575,000 free books to families in Sharjah since 2008.

“We allocated a budget of Dh150 million for the home library project with the support of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, whom we dedicate this award to. We’re very keen on conveying a message to the youth about harnessing the skill of reading various literature and enhancing their knowledge and communication across borders.”


Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the UAE Board on Books for Young People

In recognition of the group’s community work in engaging with young school children to raise their interest in books and reading

“We are so happy with this award and we would like to dedicate this achievement to His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan. He has always been a very strong supporter of our work and all the initiatives we have carried out to promote Arabic literature inside the UAE. This award will inspire us to do even more work now, we have a small office in Sharjah and we are now encouraged to open more offices all around the UAE.

“Our organisation views reading as something that is very important, that is why we work tirelessly to bring children and books together through our many projects. We have gone into schools with our volunteers to read with children, and we even held a student reading event at the top of Burj Khalifa, which was the highest reading event that took place as part of the Year of Reading. So our work is all about making children love reading and to love books.

“It is also important to support writers, publishers, and illustrators of children’s books and that is what our work has also been focusing on, and so to have the UAE Pioneer Award putting the spotlight on reading and books is something fantastic, it says a lot about the country’s positive attitude towards this area.”


Ali Abu Al Reesh, veteran novelist and writer, from Ras Al Khaimah

Awarded for his significant contributions in the UAE and Gulf arts and literature

“When I write, I write for all humanity, aiming to reach out to people everywhere, wanting them to acknowledge the importance of reading and the quality of life they can have by being well-informed and knowledgeable.

“Today, I feel very special, because the words that I’ve written are being recognised and honoured, indicating prosperity for my country that has lit the candles of aspiration and faith for the future generations.”