Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and its Flagship Sheikh Zayed Book Award Wrap Up Inspiring and Successful Roadshow Across Spain

Abu Dhabi,

The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC) and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) have concluded a successful expedition across Spain, featuring a busy agenda of activities from 27 September to 4 October 2023 across three Spanish cities: Granada, Cordoba, and Madrid. The journey included collaborations and high-profile meetings with the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies (FUNDEA), the University of Granada, and Casa Árabe cultural centre, bringing together distinguished experts and leading figures in Arabic literature, Islamic studies, and translation from the UAE, Spain, and around the world.

The delegation included His Excellency Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Secretary-General of the SZBA and Chairman of the ALC, His Excellency Saeed Hamdan Al Tunaiji, Executive Director of the ALC, and Dr. Muhsin Al-Musawi, member of the ALC Scientific Committee and a Professor of Classical and Modern Arabic Literature, Comparative and Cultural Studies at Columbia University, New York.

The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award remain committed to our mission to promote Arabic literature around the world, foster cross-cultural understanding and partnership, and advance the status and use of the Arabic language across cultural, scientific, literary, and creative spheres, said H.E. bin Tamim. Our journey through Spain offered a unique opportunity for us to exchange knowledge and expertise with our Spanish partners. We had the honour of collaborating closely with the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies (FUNDEA), the University of Granada, and Casa Árabe cultural centre – three highly influential and prominent institutions that share our commitment to cultural exchange and partnership, and with whom we worked closely to explore innovative ways to bring our cultures closer through literature and deeper understanding. Spain holds a prominent position in the world of literature, and our collaboration with Spanish partners marks a significant step forward in promoting Arabic literature and culture to all corners of the globe.

Among the most notable items on the agenda was the seminar titled Arab Literature and World Literature: What is the Arabic Literary Canon, which was held in partnership with the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies (FUNDEA) at the University of Granada. H.E. bin Tamim took part in the opening session, alongside Dr. Margarita Sánchez Romero, Vice-Rector at the University of Granada, and Dr. Maria Inmaculada Ramos Tapia, Executive Secretary of FUNDEA. The session featured thought-provoking panels on topics such as references in Arabic literature, both old and new, and intercultural influences between Spanish and Arabic literature.

FUNDEAs Dr. Tapia said: “I congratulate the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies at the University of Granada, which I am honoured to be directing, on the remarkable success this seminar has achieved at all levels. The contributions and whitepapers that were presented were of high scientific value, as speakers introduced new ideas about the references of Arab literature, its evolution throughout history, and its interaction with European, Spanish, and Andalusian literature.

In terms of participation, the seminar was attended by a select group of intellectuals, researchers, artists, journalists, students, and professors from various Spanish cities, who converged in the Andalusian city of Granada, representing universities, cultural centres, media institutions, publishing houses, and libraries, Dr. Tapia added. Moreover, a considerable audience followed the seminar remotely in both Spanish and Arabic from various countries across four continents: Europe, Asia, America, and Africa. With that in mind, we can be sure that organising this type of scholarly event contributes greatly towards strengthening relations between the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Spain, and the entire Arab world.

The ALC delegation also held extensive talks with the University of Granada, in the presence of H.E. Pedro Mercado Pacheco, Dean of the University, exploring plans and opportunities to foster closer collaboration with Spanish academic networks, particularly academic and literary institutions, to initiate projects and collaborations that help promote Arabic culture and literature in Spain.

Another prominent stop on the agenda was the meeting with Casa Árabe, a prestigious institution that operates as a key player in Spain’s relations with the Arab world and a meeting point where different stakeholders and institutions converge and collaborate. The meeting was aimed at strengthening the collaboration between the ALC, the SZBA, and Casa Árabe for the year ahead. During the meeting, which was attended by H.E. Irene Lozano Domingo, Director of Casa Árabe, the ALC launched the Arabic edition of the book ‘La Alquimia en Al Ándalus’ (Alchemy in Al Andalus) by Spanish author Angel Alcalá Malavé, translated to Arabic by Khadija Benyaya, under the umbrella of the Kalima Project for Translation. The book highlights an important period where Al Andalus became the lodestar in several disciplines of science and the arts, during which Islam held the torch after the Roman Empire. 

The period is regarded as an essential historical source of Al Andalus history of alchemy and the contributions of Muslim intellectuals and other scholars from various civilisations, which made Córdoba a scientific hub. Moreover, the book examines the significant role Andalusian alchemists played in the scientific renaissance in Al Andalus, which culminated in the age of Abdul Rahman III, who created the Tree of Knowledge and established a culture of tolerance among the three Abrahamic religions. This is in addition to their contributions to spreading the Islamic civilisation to Europe through the translations of scientific works by Arabs in the Latin Middle Ages.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, part of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), recognises outstanding writers, intellectuals, and publishers, as well as young talent whose writing and translations objectively enrich Arab intellectual, cultural, literary, and social life.