HRH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan , Chief of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court inaugurated the cultural and literary events of Sheikh Zayed Book Award on the 13th of August 2009 , which comes as part of the Award’s participation at this year’s Assilah cultural season in Morocco. Present were HE.Bensalem Himmaich, the Moroccan Minister of Culture, Mohammed bin Issa, Secretary General of the Assilah Forum and Rashed Al Oraimi , Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, and a number of Award winners were present in addition to members of the Award Advisory Council and a group from the cultural elite in the Arab world.
In his opening speech, HRH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan confirmed that the United Arab Emirates strongly believes that cultural dialogue is the basis of the distinguished status and advancement of civilizations, and hoped that Abu Dhabi’s contribution to the Assilah International Cultural Festival is effective and supporitve of the institution of Assilah and it’s efforts in serving the proccess of cultural development.
HE. Bensalem Himmaich, the Moroccan Minister of Culture stressed the importance of awards which promote Arabic literature and culture, such as the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, which embraces the provision of a suitable climate for the nominees, thus encouraging them to be more innovative and creative in enriching the Arab culture.
Mr.Rashed Al Oraimi, Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award welcomed all participants and stressed the importance of continued cooperation between the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and the Assilah cultural season, which has always been a cultural platform that attracts the attention of the elitist authors, novelists and intellectuals from around the world who come to celebrate Arab culture and Arabic literature.
Mr. Al Oraimi gave a brief explanation about the Award since 2006, when Abu Dhabi put the cornerstone of Sheikh Zayed Book Award in memory of the late Sheikh Zayed and his leading role in unification, development and nation-building, and stressed that the award and its goals stem from the strong belief in the richness of Arab culture with literary works that must be highlighted to uphold the banner of Arab literature at the global level and revive Arab heritage.
With regard to the status of Arab culture, Mr. Al Oraimi spoke about its present plight, which seems clearer after the publication of international reports issued by Arab and foreign institutions that shed light on the book status and readership in general. He explained saying: “In the past the Arab nation was at the helm of its literary and cultural glory and a reference for literary and scientific information… But it seems to haveforgotten, or overlooked its precious cultural heritage, which lead to abandoning the book and pen. So, while a foreign reader read an average of 10 books per year, we find that the Arab citizen reads a quarter of a page only at a yearly rate.
Mr.Rashed Al Oraimi concluded by saying that the process of disseminating knowledge in the Arab world and the creation of the Arab information society lies in the conscious and meaningful support of the elements which maintain such dissemination of knowledge in the Arab region, which is one of the goals of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.
On the sideline of the opening ceremony, the poet Karim Ma’touq, winner of the title “Ameer Al Shoa’raa”, recited a poem about the occasion. The ceremony was followed by the Award seminars, which were held under the title “Cultural Awards and their impact on the development of civilization” and which were facilitated by Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, Member of Advisory Council of the award, with the participation of Dr. Basheer Al -Khadra winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2007 for best contribution to the development of the country, and Mr. Madi Al Khamees, General Secretary of the Arab media Forum.
Dr.Ali Al Nuaimi opened the seminar by highlighting the Award’s efforts in bridging the gap between the Arab and Western civilizations and disseminating its humanitarian mission, and reviewed the Award’s participation in cultural forums and events around the world, and its specific seminars in many capitals, which have opened the door to dialogue with intellectual and academic institutions and which laid the foundation for strategic partnerships and cooperation agreements that will lead to exchanging the best outputs of any civilization and celebrate culture and creativity of Arabs.
As for the Award’s participation in international cultural forums and Book Fairs, Mr. Al Naimi reviewed the Award’s annual participation in cultural activities in addition to Arab and International book fairs. He said: “The Award didn’t participate in book fairs, but also utilized the presence of eager book lovers to setup cultural and literary seminars on the sidelines of these book fairs. These seminars included renowned experts, publishers and authors who discuss issues affecting the status of Arab culture and shed light on developments in Arabic literature.”
Dr. Ali Al Noami concluded by highlighting the richness of the Award experience, which has carried its mission to all elements of the book industry on an international level.
For his part, Dr. Bashir Khadra said that the Arab world is in dire need of institutions that provide cultural awards and other types of support for creative individuals than is the case in developed countries. He reviewed his own experience with the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, which culminated in winning an award for Best Contribution to the Development of the country. He discussed the most significant ideas of his winning book “Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) – Khalifyat Style in Arab Political and Democratic Leadership”
Mr. Madi Al Khamees spoke of the suffering of culture and intellectuals in the Arab world and spoke of historic attempts to control the intellectuals and the transfer of their work to become politically oriented. He referred to the need for cooperation and intensive efforts in supporting the institutions’ work, and the need for creating a collaborative environment between formal institutions or informal institutions in the Arab world. He also said that the work done by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is impressive, especially that its main mission aspires to unify the Arab society and support its cohesion and improve its ability to bring about comprehensive development in all sectors, and most importantly in supporting the human being’s intellectual and cultural awareness.
Other Assilah events on the second day included a seminar about “Literature, Arts and cultural progress,” with the novelist Gamal al-Ghitani, winner of Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2009 for Literature, and the novelist Wasini Al A’raj, winner of Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2007 for Literature, and the writer and storyteller Nasser Al Zahiri. As for the last seminar, it was entitled “Cross-Cultural Communication And Prominent Figures” and it included Mohammad bin Issa, the Secretary General of the Assilah forum Foundation and winner of Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2008 (cultural personality of the year), and Dr. Pedro Martinez, winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2009 Cultural Personality of the year, and Dr. Radwan Al’Sayed,a member of the advisory council of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.
It is noted that the activities Assilah cultural season are held every year hosting a number of international cultural seminars, fine arts exhibitions, workshops for sculpture and murals’ painting, as well as concert evenings featuring artists from around the world.