Emirati poet and writer Maisoon Saqer receiving the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature for her 2021 novel. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Emirati youth should work hard to develop their creative abilities and trust that this effort will help them excel in the culture sector, award-winning Emirati poet and writer, Maisoon Saqer has said.

Speaking to Gulf News after receiving her Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature, Saqer dedicated her award to every Emirati creative artiste.

“I have been recognised for my literary output in this prestigious award, which is one of the top categories. This honour is not mine alone. I dedicate it to every Emirati creative,” Saqer said.

Other recognitions

A published poet and author, Saqer has previously been nominated for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for two other earlier novels, ‘Raihana’ in 2003 and ‘A Pearl in My Mouth’ in 2006. She won the award in the same category this year for her narrative-of-place novel, Café Riche: Eye on Egypt (Maq’ha Reesh, Ain Ala Massr).

The book explores the cultural and social transformations in modern Egyptian history, and highlights prominent intellectuals and creators associated with the café. Saqer’s insight has been called particularly resonant, and much of this comes from her time as an undergraduate in Cairo.

Saqer was the only Emirati Sheikh Zayed Book Award winner this year, which marked the prize’s 16th year.

Advice for creatives

Discussing what can help Emirati excel in the arts and literature, Saqer recommended that aspiring creatives hone their skills with focus and effort.

“I urge them to be hopeful, and to work toward their goals with a sense of conviction. It is not easy to be a writer or artiste without years of dedicated effort and perseverance,” she said.

Award ceremony

Saqer was one of nine awardees who were honoured in the capital this week as part of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award ceremony.

The Award and its associated accolades, are presented annually to outstanding writers, intellectuals, and publishers, as well as young talent whose writing and translation in humanities objectively enriches Arab intellectual, cultural, literary and social life.

The winners of the 16th edition, who were initially announced on May 9, received their awards at the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Tuesday from Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.

Other winners

Syrian writer Maria Daadoush won the Children’s Literature category for her novel, ‘The Mystery of the Glass Ball’(Loghz al Kora al Zujajiya). Dr Mohamed Al-Maztouri of Tunisia won in the Young Author category with his book, ‘Beduinism in Ancient Arabic Poetry’ (Al Badawa fi al She’er al Arabi al Qadeem), issued by the Faculty of Literature, Arts and Humanities at Manouba University and the GLD Foundation in 2021.

The translation category saw Dr Ahmed Aladawi from Egypt win the award for his work on translating George Maqdisi’s ‘The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West’ (Nash’at al Insaniyat Einda al Muslimeen wa fi al Gharb al Maseehi) from English to Arabic.

Meanwhile, Moroccan author Mohamed Aldahi’s book, ‘The Narrator and the Soulmate: From Acting to Faking’ (Al Sarid wa Taw’am al Rooh: Min al Tamtheel ila al Istinaa’), issued by Le Centre Culturel du Livre in 2021, won in the Art and Literary Criticism category.

In the Arab Culture in Other Languages category, American-Iraqi Dr. Muhsin J. Al-Musawi won for his book ‘The Arabian Nights in Contemporary World Cultures: Global Commodification, Translation, and the Culture Industry’, while the Award for Publishing and Technology went to Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt.

The Cultural Personality of the Year Award went to Saudi thinker Dr Abdullah Al-Ghathami in recognition of his notable contributions to cultural movements in the region and the Arab world. He was awarded a gold medal, a certificate and Dh1 million prize.

All other award winners received gold medals, certificated, and Dh750,000 prizes each.

A number of the winners, including Saqer, are discussing their learnings and experiences at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which is running at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre until May 29.