The Sheikh Zayed Book Award was not able to hold a traditional ceremony this year, but it honored the 2020 winners of its annual prizes last month during a virtual ceremony that was broadcast live on its YouTube channel and other social media platforms.
“Culture is the permanent meeting place that no crisis or pandemic can deprive humanity of,” said Ali bin Tamim, secretary general of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, referring to the coronavirus precautions that prevented the awards from being presented in person.
“Perhaps one of the positive aspects of this crisis is that it raises serious questions to intellectuals,” said bin Tamin, who is also president of the Abu Dhabi Center for the Arabic Language. “This includes the importance of science, health and environmental culture, which we hope will occupy a greater area of interest to researchers and scientists.” (See a related article, “Nonprofit Groups Shift Tactics to Help the Arts Survive the Coronavirus”.)
The award began in 2006 with the patronage and support of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Since its first edition, nearly 16,000 applicants from 50 countries have applied for the award and prizes worth a total of seven million dirhams ($1.9 million) have been awarded.
The poet Moncef Ouhaibi, a professor of Arabic literature at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Sousse, in Tunisia, was awarded the literature prize this year for his book The Penultimate Cup, (Masciliana Editions, Tunisia, 2019). The award marks the first time the prize has been given to a work of poetry. Ouhaibi said he believes that “the prize restores literature as a source of knowledge and consolidates its importance, with its real cultural and cognitive symbolism.”