Sheikh Zayed Book Awards’ Top Honor: Spain’s Casa Árabe

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

At the UAE’s 18th Sheikh Zayed Book Award ceremony, Spain’s Casa Árabe is named the 1 million dirham Cultural Personality of the Year.

Irene Lozano Domingo, who leads Spain’s Casa Árabe, is congratulated onstage by Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed Khalif Al Mubarak at the April 30 ceremony of new laureates of the 18th Sheikh Zayed Book Award at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Casa Árabe has been named the 2024 Cultural Personality of the Year by the Zayed program. Image: SZBA, Zoran Mircetic

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

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Bin Tamim: ‘Preserving These Enduring Cultural Bonds’
Earlier this month, we reported on the core list of winners for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award under the direction of Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, chair of the  Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.

Those awards, which you can review in our report here, comprise seven of the winners of the 18th edition of this major prize, which recognizes authors who write about Arab culture and civilization in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian.

On Tuesday (April 30), the invitational gala winners’ ceremony at Abu Dhabi National Exposition Center, honored not just the winners of those seven categories but also of the single most lucrative award, the Cultural Personality of the Year, which carries a purse of 1 million UAE dirhams (US$272,364).

Among the richest prize programs for books and publishing in the world, the Zayed Award program carries a purse of 750,000 United Arab Emirates dirhams (US$204,209) in each of its book categories—those that are not the Cultural Personality honor—making Zayed prizes worth a total of some 7 million dirhams (US$1.9 million).

The seven category winners announced this year come from five countries: the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Germany, China, and Egypt, and genres represented include fiction, historical nonfiction, and more.

But the Cultural Personality of the Year selection adds another market to the mix: Spain. And the recipient of that prize i87s Casa Árabe, headquartered in Madrid and Cordoba, and created with the aim of being a centre for studies and knowledge about the Arab world.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s Scientific Committee has based its rationale for the award on what it sees as “the institution’s pivotal role in bridging Arab and Spanish culture and their unique cultural approach aimed at fostering dialogue between civilizations.”

Related story: ‘Abu Dhabi’s Congress: Arabic’s ‘Rightful Place‘ with Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak in the keynote discussion of the 2024 International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries (Congress PCI). Image: Publishing Perspectives: Porter Anderson

Indeed, in Sunday’s 2024 International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries here in Abu Dhabi—a show referred to for brevity as “Congress PCI”—Mohamed Al Khalifa Mubarak, the incisive chief of the Culture and Tourism at Abu Dhabi—spoke directly to the importance of Grenada And Cordoba in Spain for these hubs’ evidentiary importance and preservation of the historic reality that “for a very long time, the Arab world has exported culture, has exported innovation, has exported creativity.”

As the team at the Sheikh Zayed Book Award write, “Casa Árabe is a Spanish public institution with headquarters in Madrid and Córdoba, Spain, created with the aim of being a centre for studies and knowledge about the Arab world. The institution also includes a prominent language center in which it teaches Arabic language courses.

“The center is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of Arab culture across the Spanish-speaking world, with a particular focus on Spain, a nation in which, at present, an estimated 600,000 native Arabic speakers reside, making Arabic the second-most spoken language by the country’s foreign population.”

Lozano: ‘Culture, Coexistence, and Peace’

At Spain’s Casa Árabe. Image: Casa Árabe, Laura M. Lombardia

In a statement on the choice of Casa Árabe, the Zayed Prize secretary-general, Bin Tamim, says, “It’s my great pleasure to recognize and honor Casa Árabe as the distinguished recipient of the 2024 Sheikh Zayed Book Award Cultural Personality of the Year.

Sheikh Zayud Book Award secretary-general Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, addresses the invited audience for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award ceremony at Abu Dhabi. Image: SZBA, Zorin Mircetic

“Casa Árabe’s profound influence on the cultural exchange between Spain and the Arab world is commendable, particularly through their significant work in championing and promoting and celebrating the Arabic language.

“The historical connection between Arab culture and the Spanish-speaking world, dating back to the era of Al-Andalus, underscores the significance of organizations like Casa Árabe, which are devoted to nurturing and preserving these enduring cultural bonds.

“We’re proud to celebrate Casa Árabe, an organization which places such an emphasis on strengthening and enhancing and maintaining these longstanding cultural ties.“

And speaking for Casa Árabe, its director general, Irene Lozano Domingo, says, “This award is an endorsement of our country’s cultural contribution and of the public diplomacy promoted by the Spanish institutions, especially in the Arab world.

“For Casa Árabe, this award is a great encouragement to continue working on mutual cultural exchange and exploring the ties between Spanish society and the Arab world.

“All of this through culture, coexistence, and peace.”

Casa Árabe now becomes the second Spanish recipient of the Cultural Personality of the Year award, the first being the Arabist Pedro Martinez Montavez, who received the award in 2009.

This prize recognizes the organization’s past achievements and supports their ongoing work of cultural diplomacy and intercultural exchange.

More on the winners of the 18th cycle of the Shiekh Zayed Book Award is here.

Opening comments at the 18th Sheikh Zayed Book Awards winners’ ceremony at Abu Dhabi. Image: Zorin Mircetic

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is here, more on the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center is here, more on Arabic literature is here, and more on translation is here. More from us on publishing and book awards in the international industry is here

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.