The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is a champion of diversity, according to this year's Culture Personality of the Year, Abdullah Al Ghathami.
The Saudi literary critic made the comments during Monday’s prize-winning ceremony at Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Al Gathami, known for scholarly works on Arabic literature with notable books Al-Khatee’a wal Takfeer (Sin and Atonement) and Al Naqed Al Thaqafi fee Qera’at Al Ansaq Al Thaqafiya (Cultural Criticism and the Reading of Arab Cultural Discourses) made the remarks in his acceptance speech where he praised the breadth of the categories, ranging from literary fiction and nonfiction to children's literature and English to Arabic translation.
“This is what makes the UAE a beacon for tolerance,” he said.
“It is by appreciating differences that we can create harmony and we can see how we are all gathered here today, writers from different fields to celebrate this award, as an example of that harmony.”
Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Arabic Language Centre and the secretary of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, said the annual competition will continue to fulfil the mandate set by the UAE leadership.
“We in the UAE consider science and culture an integral part of our development,” he said.
“It is about opening minds without denying our values and heritage.”
Emirati author and poet Maisoon Saqer was another major winner as she scooped the Literature category for her novel 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 was the venue for several historical events.
Saqer will discuss her award-winning book in a session at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair on Thursday.
Other Sheikh Zayed Book Award winners include 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.
In The Arab Culture in Other Languages category, American-Iraqi author Muhsin J Al-Musawi won for his book The Arabian Nights in Contemporary World Cultures: Global Commodification, Translation, and the Culture Industry.
The academic work discusses the profound influences the tales of One Thousand and One Nights have had on modern-day global cultures.
The award for the Publishing and Technology category went to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, also known as The Great Library of Alexandria, for a cultural legacy.
The grand venue was inaugurated in 2002 and contains millions of books in several languages, as well as a digital archive.
With a Dh7 million ($1.9m) prize purse, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is one of the richest literary awards in the world.
The Culture Personality of the Year receives Dh1m, while Dh750,000 is granted to winners of all other categories. A gold medal bearing the Sheikh Zayed Book Award emblem and a certificate of merit is also part of the prize.