Arab Reading Challenge Winner
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai with the Arab Reading Challenge winner Hadeel Anwar Al Zubair Image Credit: Ahmad Ramzan, photographer

Dubai: Sudanese child Hadeel Anwar Al Zubair became the champion of the Arab Reading Challenge 2019 this afternoon bagging a cash prize of Dh500,000.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai crowned the champion who outdid 13.5 million students who participated in the year long Challenge.

Shaikh Mohammad was accompanied by Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and Muna Al Kindi, secretary general of the Arab Reading Challenge.

Shaikh Hamdan, Shaikh Saif and Al Kindi honoured the semi-finalists and finalists from different categories, while Shaikh Mohammad awarded the winner. 

The moment Hadeel Anwar Al Zubair is crowned 2019 Arab Reading Challenge Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter

After a year of intense rounds of the contests, the grand finale was held at a packed Dubai Opera and was telecast live in the new format of a reality TV programme.

The five finalists Hadeel Anwar Al Zubair, Sudan, Abdul Aziz Al Khaldi, Kuwait, Fatima Al Zahra Akhyar, Morocco, Aya Boutreea, Tunisia and Jumana Al Malki, Saudi Arabia performed the last round live in front of a packed audience.

They answered questions by the eminent panel of judges Dr. Barween Habib, Bahraini poet, author and media personality, Jamal Suleiman, Syrian actor and director, and Dr. Laila Labidi, Assistant Professor in the Arabic Language Department at the University of Sharjah.

Emirati author Sultan Al Amimi was the guest of honour in the judging panel.

Votes cast live by the nearly 3000 members of the audience were also counted in for selecting the winner.

The 4th edition of the challenge has attracted 13.5 million students from 67,000 schools in 49 countries, a fourfold rise from the first edition, which saw 3.5 million students from 15 countries in 2016.

Sheikh Mohammad honoured the winners in other categories as well.

Al Imam Al Nawawi from Saudi Arabia became the Best School, bagging Dh1million.

Amira Najeeb from Egypt became the outstanding supervisor who bagged Dh300,000.

Mahmoud Bilal from Sweden bagged Dh100,000 as the winner in the category for non-Arab countries .

Hadeel Anwar Al Zubair
Hadeel Anwar Al Zubair, champion of the the Arab Reading Challenge 2019 Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Who is Hadeel Anwar Al Zubair?

Nationality: Sudan

Age: 13

Class: Grade 7

Siblings: 0

Ambitions: aspiring doctor

The only child to her parents, Hadeel found her inspiration and support system in her family. Her mother, specifically, has been the sister and friend. She aspires to be a doctor and an author whose works bring positive impact to society. She dreams of channeling her capabilities and skills in science and knowledge towards helping those in need and eventually becoming a goodwill ambassador. Hadeel considers being the Arab Reading Challenge’s national winner to be a lifechanging moment.

The ambitious social butterfly, as she calls herself, loves being part of volunteer work and awareness campaigns of different social issues. Hadeel’s first and last passion is reading. Her hobbies include swimming and painting. Her list of books includes The Alchemist for Paulo Coelho, The Power of Positive Thinking for Norman Vincent Peale and Planet Google for Randall E. Stross. Her favorite author is Sudanese Tayeb Salih and favorite character is Salma from Ghazi Al Gosaibi’s novel titled Salma. Hadeel’s role model is the revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela for his pursuit to freedom. If she were to portray a character, it would be Sophie from Jostein Gaarde’s Sophie’s World.

Hadeel dreams of completing her studies in Britain. ”Being part of the Arab Reading Challenge brings me great pride and honor. I have gone a long way of persistence and willpower to be chosen out of 13.5 million students. My aim upon participating was to challenge myself through managing my time and controlling my thoughts. I wanted to grow my knowledge, linguistic and communication skills.

What she told Gulf News ahead of the final

I heard about the competition on social media, I looked it up and got interested. As I expected this challenge has broadened my cultural awareness, my linguistic skills and my comprehension skills.

I was a reader since I was 6 years old but my serious reading and my ability to critique and analyze the books began when I was 8 years old.

I always set annual goals regarding to my reading. This year I’ve set a goal of 1000 books to be completed before the end of 2019. So far I have read 766.

At the start my parents were my biggest supporters, they encouraged me to participate and get this far. Now, however, it is the whole of Sudan that are supporting me and cheering me on.

The most important aspect that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid was aiming for, is reading and awakening the Arab youth with the power of reading. If anyone wants to participate in this challenge they should feel strongly about an issue or a case that they can speak about with passion and innovation so that it can be your message or purpose in this challenge.

The Arabic reading challenge has instilled reading as part of my life. For me, reading has always been a lifestyle. For others, it may just be a hobby.

If I am named the champion in this competition, I would like to dedicate this title to every reader, to those who make the Arab nation proud, and to every young Arab doing their part in celebrating their heritage. As for the financial prize, I hope to initiate and open a library in Sudan where all types of books could be found to enrich the culture of reading in my hometown.