Emirati writer Maisoon Saqer wins Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2022

The author triumphed in the Literature category for her novel 'Maq’ha Riche, Ain Ala Massr'

A composite picture shows the covers of three books that were successful in the Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2022. From left, 'Maq’ha Riche, Ain Ala Massr'; 'Loghz al Kora al Zujajiya'; 'The Arabian Nights in Contemporary World Cultures: Global Commodification, Translation, and the Culture Industry'.
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Emirati author and poet Maisoon Saqer has been named winner of a Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the Literature category for Maq’ha Riche, Ain Ala Massr (Eye on Egypt: Cafe Riche).

The novel revolves around the famous Cafe Riche, a landmark in Downtown Cairo that was frequented by the likes of Naguib Mahfouz and witnessed several important historical events. The cafe was where King Farouk met his second wife, Nariman Sadek, and where members of the 1919 Egyptian Revolution against British occupation met to organise their resistance. The venue was also patronised by Gamal Abdel Nasser while he was planning to overthrow King Farouk.

In Maq’ha Riche, Ain Ala Massr, Saqer blends fictional elements to highlight the cafe’s historical significance. The work documents an important era in Egypt’s cultural history by examining the cultural and social transformations and highlighting prominent intellectuals and creators associated with the cafe.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, named after the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, honours writers, innovators and thinkers in literature, the arts and humanities in Arabic and other languages from across the Arab world. Organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, part of the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, it aims to advance Arabic literature and culture and provide new opportunities for Arabic-language writers.

With a Dh7 million ($1.9m) prize purse, it is also one of the richest literary awards in the world.

Authors writing about Arab culture and civilisation in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian are also recognised by the award, which was launched in 2007.

The 2022 award is the largest to date in terms of submissions and the number of participating countries, organisers said. More than 3,000 submissions were sent in from 55 countries, including 20 Arab nations and 35 foreign countries, an increase of about 28 per cent from 2021.

Winners in other categories

The 16th Sheikh Zayed Book Award organisers also announced winners across seven other categories. These include several literary figures, intellectuals and translations, along with Egypt’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Syrian writer Maria Daadoush won in the Children’s Literature category for her story Loghz al Kora al Zujajiya (The Mystery of the Glass Ball). The work tells the story of a boy aged 12 who embarks on a series of exciting adventures while accompanying his grandfather on a train ride in the desert. It explores children’s obsession with video games, while also addressing the effects of pollution.

Mohamed Al-Maztouri from Tunisia won in the Young Author category with his book Al Badawa fi al She’er al Arabi al Qadeem (Bedouinism in Ancient Arabic Poetry). It is an academic work that presents Bedouinism as one of the pillars of ancient Arabic poetry, spanning from the pre-Islamic period until fourth-century Hegira.

Ahmed Aladawi from Egypt was declared winner of the Translation category. Aladawi translated from English The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West by George Makdisi.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award organisers have announced the winners of the 16th event. Photo: Sheikh Zayed Book Award

The work, Nash’at al Insaniyat Einda al Muslimeen wa fi al Gharb al Maseehi, is a comparative exploration of the origins of humanism in classical Islamic civilisation, its literature, its culture and the circumstances surrounding its emergence in the Western Christian world.

Moroccan author Mohamed Aldahi’s Al Sarid wa Taw’am al Rooh: Min al Tamtheel ila al Istinaa (The Narrator and the Soulmate: From Acting to Faking) won in the Art and Literary Criticism category. The book classifies the forms of self-narratives within the general literary discourse, which includes diaries, letters, confessions, journals, self-imagination and self-narration.

In The Arab Culture in Othe