Abu Dhabi, UAE – Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), has announced winners of its 18th edition following a meeting of its Board of Trustees.

The meeting was chaired by His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the SZBA Board of Trustees, and attended by Board Members H.E. Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Cultural Adviser to H.H. the President of the UAE; H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi; H.E. Saood Al Hosani, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi; H.E. Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Secretary General of the SZBA and Chairman of ALC; H.E. Abdulla Majed Al Ali, Director-General of the National Library and Archives; and Abdulrahman Mohamed Alnaqbi, Literary Award Department Director at ALC.

H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said: “Through ALC’s various initiatives, we seek to promote Arabic language proficiency and ensure greater cultural understanding. 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. 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.”

H.E. Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, Secretary General of the SZBA, said: “Since its inception, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award has been an influential catalyst for the Arab cultural scene, actively contributing to the revitalisation of literary and poetic movements as well as translation efforts. We are proud to spotlight landmark projects and works from great minds around the world which have greatly impressed and inspired us. We congratulate this year’s winners and invite all creators to participate in the next edition of the Award, offering them the opportunity to make their contribution towards enriching the wider cultural scene.”

The winner of the Literature category of the Award is Egyptian writer Reem Bassiouney for her novel ‘Al Halwani...Thulathiyat al-Fatimiyeen’ (Al Halwani: The Fatimid Trilogy), published by Nahdet Misr Publishing, Printing and Distribution in 2022. Bassiouney is working on a project to write historical novels about Egypt in the Middle Ages, where she seeks to shed light on the Egyptian character with narratives that intertwine poetry, architecture, and mythology, while underscoring the human dimension. The author works to construct the narrative of historical and social development in Egypt in that era, using a narrative tone that aligns with the nature of that extended historical period and its intellectual and social dimensions.. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Houssem Eddine Chachia from Tunisia won the SZBA in the Young Author category for his work ‘Al Mashhad al-Moriski: Sardiyat al-Tard fi al-Fikr al-Espani’ (The Morisco Landscape Narratives of Expulsion in Modern Spanish Thought), issued by the Centre for Research and Knowledge Intercommunication in 2023. The work sheds light on the expulsion of the Moriscos who had remained in Spain, addressing its socio-cultural dimensions, and exploring the relation between memory and historic identity. The researcher makes a notable effort in investigating and documenting facts, while ensuring analytical and critical presentation. The study presents historical material documented in Spanish on the subject, offering an interdisciplinary historical study into civilisations and their relationships from a scientific perspective.

The Editing of Arabic Manuscripts category saw Dr. Mustafa Said from Egypt win for his study titled ‘Safinat al-Mulk wa-Nafisat al-Fulk (Shehab al-Din) al-Muwashah wa-Musiqa al-Maqam al-Natiqa bil-Arabiya bayn al-Tantheer wal-Maras’ (The Ship of Possession and the Precious Ship (Shehab al-Din) - Muwashah and Arabic-speaking Maqam Music between Theory and Practice), published by ElAin Publishing in 2023. The researcher conducted a comprehensive methodological study, showcasing his scientific acumen and enhanced prowess to analyse, understand, and critique. Dr. Said’s work makes it evident that he made a significant effort to organise his report and present information clearly to the reader. Remarkably this study stands out as the first comprehensive report from a scientific point of view and includes an in-depth study and statistical charts of melodies and connections.

Moreover, the winner of the Contribution to the Development of Nations category is Dr. Khalifa Alromaithi from the UAE, who won for his book: ‘Al-Asmaa’ al-Jughrafiya – Thakirat Ajyal’ (Geographical Names – Legacy of Generations), published by Austin Macauley Publishers in 2022. The book is characterised by its scientific spirit, accuracy of its language, and clarity of its style. It constitutes a study of geographical names in the United Arab Emirates, providing a reference for researchers into the subject. The author combines a historical and geographical approach, relying on data, numbers, maps, and historical tracing, making it a work of outstanding distinction and precision.

In the Translation category of the Award, the winner was Dr. Ahmed Somai from Tunisia, for his translation of ‘Al-Ilm al-Jadeed’ (La Scienza Nuova – The New Science), authored by Giambattista Vico, translated from Italian into Arabic, and published by Adab Publishing and Distribution in 2022. Dr. Somai stands out for skilfully transferring the terminology, structure, formulation, and context in which it was mentioned in Arabic. Furthermore, the translator included a notable introduction, as well as extensive annotations to help clarify the ideas and information presented in the text, making his translation a significant addition for the Arabic library.

Meanwhile, Frank Griffel won in the Arab Culture in Other Languages category for his book ‘The Formation of Post-Classical Philosophy in Islam’, published in English by Oxford University Press in 2021. The book sheds light on the key contributions of Islamic philosophy and its impact on subsequent developments in theology, science, and literature. It covers the developments that led to reshaping philosophical discourse in Islam during the 12th century. Griffel highlights figures who spoke in depth about philosophy in that era, delving into metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, and the intricate relationship between reason and revelation. One of the most innovative ideas expressed in the book is the combination of Greek philosophical ideas with Arab and Islamic schools of thought; it explains how scholars like Al-Farabi and Ibn Sina attempted to reconcile these diverse traditions. The book also reviews the figures and movements that influenced Islamic philosophy, making it a valuable contribution to understanding post-classical eras in Islamic philosophy.

The Publishing and Technology category saw China-based Bayt Elhekma for Creative Industries win the Award. The group aims to establish a cultural bridge that tells China’s story and history, promoting cross-cultural dialogue between China and the Arab world. Since its establishment, the group has translated and published more than 300 books and publications, in addition to a vast number of documents and newspapers. These efforts have allowed Bayt Elhekma for Creative Industries to compile a large database of Chinese and Arabic linguistic inventory, which can be employed to serve cultural endeavours on both the Chinese and Arab sides.

The group is an integrated cultural project operating in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and China. In just a few years, it has managed to build Arab, regional, and international knowledge bridges through its branches and projects that focus on connecting the Middle East with the Far East and establishing rooted knowledge through publishing, translation, education, visual media, cultural industries, and trade. The group includes a comprehensive children's library comprising books and stories for children and adolescents, ranging from illustrated stories to skill development books, educational resources, and motivational educational novels for adolescents.

Submissions for the 18th edition were the highest in the Award’s history, with a total of 4,240 nominations received, marking a 35% increase over last year’s 3,151 submissions. Additionally, the number of participating countries grew to 74, including 19 Arab nations and 55 countries from around the world.

The winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year award will be announced in the upcoming few weeks. The winners will be honoured at a ceremony organised by the ALC during the 33rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which is held annually at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is organised annually by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre to honour the pioneering cultural legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the UAE. The Award honours intellectuals, creators, publishers, and youth for their contributions to the fields of development, authorship, and translation that have had a clear impact on cultural, literary, and social life, based on scientific and objective criteria.

Winners’ bios

Dr. Reem Bassiouney

Dr. Reem Bassiouney is an Egyptian author, as well as a professor and chair of the linguistics department at the American University in Cairo since 2013. She previously worked as an assistant professor of linguistics at Georgetown University (2007-2013) and as a lecturer of linguistics at the University of Utah (2005-2007), in addition to teaching at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge (2002-2005), and serving as a member of the judging panels for the Excellence in Literature Award 2024 from the Supreme Council of Culture, as well as the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) in 2023.

Dr. Bassiouney holds a PhD in sociolinguistics from the University of Oxford (2002), a master’s degree in sociolinguistics from the University of Oxford (1998), and a bachelor’s degree in English from Alexandria University (1994). She has garnered acclaim by notable critics from Egypt, other Arab countries, and around the world. Dr. Bassiouney has authored a collection of novels, which were all published in several editions. Most of her works topped the best-seller list and were translated by Dr. Roger Allen, who also worked on the novels of the great Naguib Mahfouz.

Dr. Houssem Eddine Chachia

Dr. Houssem Eddine Chachia is a Tunisian academic specialising in modern history at the Tunis University. He has served as a visiting professor at the University of Murcia in Spain and a visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University in the United States.

His research focuses mainly on the Moriscos, on which he has published numerous studies and books in Arabic, Spanish, and English. His works include ‘Tunisia, the Mediterranean, and the Moriscos’ (co-published with Tunisian Academic Press in 2023), a Spanish book titled ‘Between Two Banks: The Noble Morisco Path from Murcia to Tunisia’ (co-published with Murcia Academic Press in 2017), and ‘The Sephardic and Moriscos: The Journey of expulsion and installation in the Maghreb’ (Arab Institute for Studies and Publishing, 2015). He has also edited the book ‘Nasir aldiyn ealaa alqawm alkafirina' by the Morisco Ahmad ibn Qasim al-Hajari. Dr. Chachia has received several grants and awards, including the Young Researcher Award in History in 2020, presented by the Beit Al-Hikma in Tunisia, and the Ibn Battuta Award for Travel Literature in 2015 in the studies and manuscript editing category and the 2009 Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs award for translation.

Dr. Mustafa Said

Egyptian author Dr. Mustafa Said is a musician, composer, and performer, specialising in classical Arabic music, specifically Arabic Maqam music. He is a researcher in musicology, with most of his research focusing on the history of Arabic melody and its relationship with other cultures that adopt the Maqami music system as the basis for their melodies. Dr. Said founded the ‘Asil Ensemble’ for classical Arabic music and has numerous musical releases, articles, and research publications. He has participated in several leading musical forums as a composer, performer, and singer, in addition to lecturing at various conferences. Dr. Mustafa Said has received a range of awards, notably the Maqam Forum Award in Azerbaijan in 2009 and the Aga Khan Award in Portugal in 2019.

Dr. Khalifa Alromaithi

Dr. Khalifa Alromaithi is recognised as a pioneer in the science of National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) in the UAE and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Geospatial World Forum in April 2019 in Amsterdam as a “pioneer in the UAE and regional geospatial community”. Dr. Alromaithi has authored more than 20 reports on policy and strategy, publishing over 22 technical research papers in specialised journals, seminars, and conferences. He has been a frequent speaker at a wide range of local and international conferences and seminars. He holds scientific degrees in aerial survey sciences, in addition to a master’s degree in geographic information systems from the Faculty ITC of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, and a doctorate in geospatial from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

Dr. Alromaithi held high government positions where he acquired expertise in strategic planning and geographical policies. His knowledge of the field of surveying and spatial data enabled him to scientifically determine the locations of geographic names, where he was able to aggregate a large portion of these names over four decades.

Dr. Ahmed Somai

Dr. Ahmed Somai is a writer, translator, and professor of higher education in modern and contemporary Italian language and literature at the Tunisian University (Manouba). He retired in 2018 after 38 years in higher education and holds a PhD in modern and contemporary Italian literature from Sorbonne University Paris 3. He began teaching at the Faculty of Literature in Tunis in 1980 and held several positions, including head of the languages department and coordinator of the Italian section.

Dr. Somai contributed to the writing of the first textbooks for teaching the Italian language in Tunisian institutes. His research focuses on the characteristics of modern and contemporary Italian literature, the history of Tunisian-Italian relations, and the Italian community in Tunisia, for which he authored the book ‘Italian Bibliography about Tunisia’. Dr. Somai is a highly respected scholar of Italo Calvino and has dedicated most of his activity to translating works from Italian to Arabic and vice-versa, as well as from French to Italian and vice-versa. He has published many literary and scientific translations and is preparing to publish five new translations of various books and novels in 2024 and 2025.

Frank Griffel

Frank Griffel is a Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University in the United States, teaching courses on the history of Islamic thought, Islamic theology, and Islamic philosophy. Griffel studied philosophy, Arabic literature, and Islamic studies at universities in Göttingen (Germany), Damascus, Berlin, and London, and holds a PhD from the Freie Universität in Berlin. He worked as a research fellow at the Orient Institute of the German Oriental Society in Beirut, Lebanon, before moving on to his position at Yale.

His published works cover Al-Ghazali’s contribution to the development of Islamic theology and the history of philosophy; Griffel published German translations of works by Al-Ghazali (‘Faysal al-tafriqa’) and Ibn Rushd, namely his ‘Fasl al-maqal’. He also focuses on contemporary Muslim thought, the development of the judgment of apostasy in Islam, and the formation of post-classical philosophy in Islam. Moreover, Griffel is working on a long-term project to develop a comprehensive history of Islamic theology that can be used as a textbook in college courses.

Bayt Elhekma for Creative Industries - China,

Bayt Elhekma for Creative Industries - China, based in Cairo and founded in 2013, aims to establish a cross-cultural dialogue between China and the Arab world. The institution is considered a platform for Chinese-Arab cultural cooperation in the fields of publishing, translation, cultural investment, education, and training, in addition to its activities in producing documentary films and animation, establishing Arabic digital information banks, e-book trade, and organizing international conferences and events.

Bayt Elhekma for Creative Industries - China has received numerous awards from various official and cultural entities in the countries where it operates, confirming its importance in the preservation and promotion of Chinese and Arab cultures.

About Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre

The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, established following a directive from the President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, as part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, works to support Arabic language development and modernisation through comprehensive strategies and frameworks, enrich the scientific, educational, cultural and creative contributions of the Arabic language, promote Arabic language proficiency and cultural understanding, and support Arab talents in the fields of writing, translation, publishing, scientific research, arts, content creation and organisation of book fairs. The Centre works to realise its foundational vision through dedicated programmes, human expertise, and meaningful partnerships with the world’s most prestigious technical, cultural, and academic institutions.

About the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) drives the sustainable growth of Abu Dhabi's culture, tourism and creative sectors, fuels economic progress and helps achieve Abu Dhabi's wider global ambitions. By working in partnership with the organisations that define the emirate's position as a leading international destination, DCT Abu Dhabi strives to unite the ecosystem around a shared vision of the emirate's potential, coordinate effort and investment, deliver innovative solutions, and use the best tools, policies, and systems to support the culture and tourism industries.

DCT Abu Dhabi's vision is defined by the emirate's people, heritage, and landscape. We work to enhance Abu Dhabi's status as a place of authenticity, innovation, and unparalleled experiences, represented by its living traditions of hospitality, pioneering initiatives, and creative thought.

About Sheikh Zayed Book Award

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award commemorates the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and his pioneering role in promoting national unity and development. The Award, and its associated accolades, are presented annually to outstanding writers, intellectuals, and publishers, as well as young talent whose writing and translation in humanities objectively enriches Arab intellectual, cultural, literary, and social life. The Sheikh Zayed Book Award at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre is an independent cultural initiative administered by Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi.

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