Egyptian novelist Reem Bassiouney among winners at Sheikh Zayed Book Awards 2024

Academics and linguists are also honoured during Abu Dhabi International Book Fair

Egyptian author Reem Bassiouney receives her Sheikh Zayed Book Award from Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed. Photo: Zoran Milrcetic / Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre
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A historical novel about Egypt, a research study on Spain's Islamic past and an Arabic translation of a 17th century Italian philosopher are some of the winners of this year's Sheikh Zayed Book Awards.

Announced on Monday as part of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the annual prize organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, a part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, recorded its highest number of entries this year. More than 4,200 submissions were considered from 74 countries, with works competing across nine categories.

"The award embodies the extent of the commitment of the UAE capital and wise leadership and the great values we grew up with," Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre chairman Ali Bin Tamim said during the ceremony. "These include an appreciation and application of creativity, innovation, science and culture.

"The breadth of this year’s submissions not only increases our responsibility as custodians but also reflects the breadth of influence, reputation and reliability of this competition.”

Emerging from the shortlist was Reem Bassiouney for her 2022 novel Al Halwani...Thulathiyat al-Fatimiyeen’ (Al Halwani: The Fatimid Trilogy). The winning work is part of the Egyptian author's wider series of historical novels about Egypt set in the middle ages. With its meditations of Egyptian mythology and architecture, the prize-winning novel was praised for its innovative construction and accessibility.

Tunisian researcher Houssem Eddine Chachia won the Young Author prize for his study on the Moriscos of Spain, a 16th century community who forcibly converted from Islam to Christianity (or face exile) after the reconquest of Andalusia.

German scholar Frank Griffel won the Arab Culture in Other Languages award for his 2021 book The Formation of Post-Classical Philosophy in Islam, which highlights key figures in Islamic history – like ninth century philosopher Al Farabi – who spoke in depth about philosophy, metaphysics and ethics.

"It is a great honour personally and it sheds a light into our research community," Griffel told The National. "An award like this helps us create further connections with Arab countries and researchers in our field and ultimately make our work visible in the region."

Tunisia's Ahmed Somai was awarded for his translation of Al Ilm Al Jadeed (The New Science), by Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico. The Arabic translation was hailed for its "skilful rendering of terminology, structure, formulation and context," in addition to clarifying some of Vico's ideas about the history of philosophy.

This year, the prestigious Cultural Personality of the Year award went to Casa Arabe, a Spanish cultural organisation based in Madrid and Cordoba. For nearly 20 years Casa Arabe has become an intellectual and cultural hub with forums and exhibitions surrounding Spain’s relationship with the Muslim world.

The winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year award receives Dh1 million, while winners of other categories each receive a gold medal, a certificate of merit and Dh750,000.

“For 18 years, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award has played a pivotal role in supporting our efforts to enrich cultural and intellectual creativity worldwide while providing a platform for writers, translators, academics and organisations to reach global audiences,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi as part of the winner’s announcement.

“Through this platform, we are celebrating Arabic-speaking writers and authors who write about Arab culture and civilisation, collectively advancing our intellectual and cultural heritage.”

Updated: May 03, 2024, 8:14 AM