Sheikh Zayed Book Award Ceremony Honors 2018 Winners and Cultural Personality of the Year

In News by Hannah Johnson

Hope and cross-cultural understanding were big themes at the official ceremony honoring the winners of the 2018 Sheikh Zayed Book Award in Abu Dhabi.

Winners of the 2018 Sheikh Zayed Book Awards. Image: Hannah Johnson

By Hannah Johnson | This article is sponsored by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

On April 30 at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi, the winners of the 2018 Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) received their official medals. The ceremony took place at Manarat Al Saadiyat, a cultural space on the island of Saadiyat—where museums including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum are also located.

The first keynote speaker, Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, told the audience that one aim of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is to “build bridges of communication” across cultures. He said that he was proud of the UAE’s work in “connecting humanity regardless of religion or color.”

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, gives a keynote speech at the award ceremony. Image: Hannah Johnson

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, followed with a speech that recalled the award’s namesake, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, as a “beacon leading our way.” Tamim quoted poetry and speeches by Sheikh Zayed, pointing out hope as a common theme.

It was a timely tribute to the first Sheikh of the United Arab Emirates, as 2018 has been designated as the Year of Zayed in the UAE to commemorate the centenary of Zayed’s birth. According to the Year of Zayed website, “it is intended that the Year of Zayed will involve people of all ages, nationalities, faiths and backgrounds in the UAE and internationally.”

The awards were presented onstage to all of the 2018 winners by His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Each winner will receive a prize of 750,000 dirhams (US$204,000), and the winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year receives 1 million dirhams (US$272,000). See a list of the 2018 winners.

Children’s Literature Winner Hessa Al Muhairi

Author Hessa Al Muhairi, winner of the 2018 Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the Children’s Literature category. Image: Thomas Minkus

Teacher and author Hessa Al Muhairi won the Children’s Literature category for her picture book, The Dinoraf (published by Al Hudhud Publishing and Distribution in Egypt). After the awards ceremony, she told Publishing Perspectives that she was inspired to write this book because she was “looking for something bigger…a way to reach more people.”

The message of the book, about a dinosaur looking for his family among modern animals, said Al Muhairi, is that “even if we are different, we can still connect with each other.” This message of building bridges across differences echos the sentiments expressed by both Ghobash and Tamim in their keynote speeches.

With one book behind her, Al Muhairi said she wants to eventually become a book publisher specializing in children’s books. She’s already writing another book about special needs, and she will pursue her Ph.D. in education as the University of Bath in the UK.

Cultural Personality of the Year: Arab World Institute

Jack Lang (center), President of the Arab World Institute in France. Image: Hannah Johnson

In addition to the 2018 winners who were announced earlier this month, the ceremony also honored this year’s Cultural Personality of the Year winner: the Arab World Institute. This organization was chosen, according the SZBA jury statement, for its role in “promoting cooperation and cultural exchange between France and the Arab world, especially in terms of contributing to the advancement of Arabic language and Arabic culture in France and Europe.”

President of the Arab World Institute, Jack Lang, accepted the award. Before becoming president of the Arab World Institute, Lang held a number of government positions in France, including Minister of Culture and Minister of Education.

Translation Funding Now Available

The SZBA has launched a new translation grant program this year as well as more outreach to international publishers.

The translation grants are available for the winners of the Literature and Children’s Literature categories, as well as some of the Young Author winners.

See a complete list of titles available for funding, as well as more information about how to apply for translation grants here. You can also find this information in the 2018 Sheikh Zayed Book Award Rights List available to download here.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.