His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler, with the winners Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, honoured winners of the Arab Reading Challenge 2023 at the concluding event of the 7th edition, which also saw awards granted to Community Champion, Outstanding Supervisor and Best School, as well as the People of Determination Champion.

Sheikh Mohammed honoured Abdullah Mohammad Abdullah Al Berri from Qatar, and Amnah Mohammad Al Mansoori from the UAE, who tied for the first place as the Arab Reading Champions 2023.

Abdullah said: “I was so excited to be standing alongside Sheikh Mohammed... It was a very beautiful moment for me.”

Amnah also expressed her gratitude for winning the Arab Reading Challenge. “It’s a great feeling,” she said.

Amnah told Gulf News she read 130 to 150 books in order to prepare herself for the Challenge. She dedicated half an hour every day to reading a book. “Every day I study for eight hours.”

Amnah added that she spent a considerable time practicing public speaking.

The challenge in its 7th edition saw a record participation of 24.8 million students from 46 countries, representing over 188,000 schools under the mentorship of around 150,000 supervisors.

‘Book of tomorrow’

Speaking to an audience of over 1,500 people attending the event at the Dubai Opera, Sheikh Mohammed said: “The future welcomes those armed with knowledge. It resides inside of books. Those who read today will get to write chapters in the book of tomorrow.”

He added: “We are thrilled to witness the competitive spirit among Arab students, and to have met a generation of young minds who believe books are the best way to build the future."

“Reading is the key to understanding ourselves and the world around us. It is the compass that has outlined the path of human civilization and will continue to be the driver to better human life. The Arab Reading Challenge continues to reveal bright Arab minds, capable of miraculous feats.

“We are proud of our Arab students and their commitment to the Arabic language. We deeply believe in their ability to preserve it and unlock endless horizons of knowledge. The UAE will always stand behind the Arab youth and help spread our Arab culture. This is a responsibility we all share.

“This year, we have 24.8 million champions, I congratulate you all, and thank all participating ministries of education and educators, as well as everyone who has contributed to this success. The Arab Reading Challenge is for everyone, because acquiring knowledge requires no permission,” Sheikh Mohammed concluded.

The event was attended by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council; Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, First Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior; Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority; and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence.

Investing in people

Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, and Secretary-General of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, said that since its launch by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2015, the Arab Reading Challenge continues to evolve and break records, reflecting the visions of Sheikh Mohammed for investing in people, enabling the new generation to gain knowledge and encouraging them to read and enrich the Arab cultural scene. The initiative fosters a strong connection to the Arabic language and highlights its role as a key component of the Arab identity.

“Honouring the 7th Arab Reading Challenge Champions is an acknowledgment of excellence, perseverance and willpower of students, and of the dedication of tens of thousands of schools and educators,” Al Gergawi said.

“The Arab Reading Challenge will continue to grow in quality and quantity, further inspiring and impacting the lives of students who have grown more knowledgeable and more attached to their mother tongue. Just as addition of the People of Determination category this year represented a milestone, the Challenge will continue to introduce new ideas and updates that reflect its ambition and its mission.”

Fierce competition

The final round of qualification for 1st place winners at witnessed fierce competition among the students who already passed several qualifiers, with Abdullah Mohammad Al Berri from Qatar and Amnah Mohammad Al Mansoori from the UAE emerging as joint Champions receiving the first place award of Dh500,000 each.

Naema Jehad Rajoub from Syria and Mohammad Walid Abdullatif from Egypt (Ministry of Education) tied for second place and received an award of Dh100,000 each.

People of Determination

Sheikh Hamdan honoured winners of the newly added People of Determination Champion category, which saw the participation of 22,506 students. Yousuf bin Dawoud from Tunisia won first place and an award of Dh200,000, followed by Abdullah Ammar Mohammad Al Sayyed from Egypt (Ministry of Education) in second place, earning an award of Dh100,000, while Zaid bin Tariq Al Adi from Oman won third place and an award of Dh50,000.

Community champion

Sheikh Hamdan also honoured winners of the Community Champion category for students participating in the Arab Reading Challenge from non-Arab countries as well non-Arabs. The first place title was awarded to Mohammed Abdulraqib Ali Ahmed Al Kawkabani from Malaysia, who received an award of Dh100,000.

Maram Saddouqi from France came in second place and received Dh70,000, while Hussain Mustafa Ihsan from Turkey came in third and received Dh30,000.

Outstanding Supervisor

The Outstanding Supervisor Award, presented by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, went to Samaher Al Sawaei from Jordan, who outshined 149,826 reading supervisors taking part in the 7th edition of the challenge and received a Dh300,000 award. Winners of the 2nd and 3rd places for this category are Fuad bin Medyef Al Talhi from KSA (winning an award of Dh100,000) and Noorah Al Shehhi from the UAE (winning an award of Dh50,000), respectively.

Best School

Sheikh Mohammed presented the King Abdullah II School for Excellence in Jordan with the Best School Award and an Dh1 million prize. It was followed by Saudi Arabia’s Mawaheb Al Watan School, which received an Dh500,000 award, while the Martyr Pilot Ali Mohammed Ali School from Egypt came in third place and received an award of Dh300,000.

With 100 percent student participation, the King Abdullah II School for Excellence has launched several initiatives to highlight the challenge and nurture the love of reading among its students, organised several meetings with authors, poets and intellectuals, and signed partnerships with Yarmouk University and other institutions to support its initiatives.

Tours for Knowledge

The Arab Reading Challenge delegations visiting the UAE to attend the event had an extensive and enriching program that toured the emirate. The delegations visited the Mohammed bin Rashid Library and toured its various sections, learning about the millions of research works offered by the smart library to students and academics via the UAE’s largest database.

Another visit to the Global Village, a major family entertainment destination in Dubai, introduced the students to the myriad of cultures of the world through entertainment shows, craft displays and food. The delegations also visited Motion Gate, the Hollywood-inspired theme park and part of the Dubai Parks and Resorts.