A former Arab Reading Challenge winner captivated an audience including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, during an address at this year's showpiece event.
Maryam Amjoun, who won the 2018 award at the age of 9, read excerpts from Sheikh Mohammed's memoir, My Story: 50 Memories from 50 Years of Service, at the awards ceremony held on Thursday at Dubai Opera House.
Footage shared by Dubai Media Office showed Sheikh Mohammed was visibly moved.
Maryam herself was in tears as she read the text.
She was embraced by Sheikh Mohammed after concluding her speech.
Maryam cried when she was crowned winner of the international competition four years ago, and Sheikh Mohammed used his ghutra to wipe away her joyful tears.
Maryam narrated part of the 2019 book in which Sheikh Mohammed fondly recalled his upbringing.
“My mother was kind. She’s my heart. My mother noticed that my breakfast was divided in half, so she doubled it. This is how mothers are,” Maryam said, reading a section from the memoir.
“In May 1983, I lost my mother. I lost my sweetheart. I lost my vision. My father lost his life partner. He lost his support, his love, his friend, his companion, and his sweetheart. I worried about my father after she passed away during that shocking moment that affected Dubai and its people after more than 40 years. The people of Dubai genuinely loved Sheikha Latifa Bint Hamdan, the Mother of Dubai.”
Maryam, while overwhelmed by her victory in 2018, said at the time that she was confident her hard work would pay off.
“I was told that in every challenge there are hardships but I never gave up despite all the difficulties,” she said.
“I like to read books that treat problems, such as social books, in addition to reading history and scientific books, and books about morals and ethics.”
The Arab Reading Challenge was launched by Sheikh Mohammed in 2015 to encourage a million young people to read at least 50 books in a year.
This year's event attracted 22 million entrants from 44 countries.