presented on the day by His Highness who personally selects
the winner. It is given to a “person or organisation active in the
field of culture” and last year was awarded to the Egyptian artist
Farouk Abdel Aziz Hosni.
The remaining awards are also presented by His Highness,
having been judged by a high-profile Selection Jury. The Sharjah
Award for an Emirati Book has four categories: Best Emirati Book
by an Emirati Creative Writer; Best Emirati Academic Book; Best
Emirati Foreign Translated Book; and Best Emirati Book about
the UAE. The aim of these awards is to encourage local writers
and publishers to increase “knowledge development in the
UAE” across a range of subjects, and also to “introduce the UAE
internationally through writings in the fields of creativity, history,
art and science”.
Among last year’s winners were Ali Abualeesh, whose novel
An Exceptional Woman tackles the status of women in modern
society and was named Best Emirati Book by an Emirati Creative
Writer. Zayed: Man Who Built a Nation by Graeme Wilson – a
British writer who has lived in the UAE for nearly 25 years – was
named Best Emirati Foreign Translated Book.
The Sharjah Award for the Best Arabic Novel is always eagerly
awaited since the accolade boosts sales across the region.
Last year it was won by 6000 Miles by the Palestinian writer
Mohammed Muhib Jabr.
As befits the Fair’s global status, the SIBF Awards includes an
international segment, with awards for books in three categories:
Fiction, Non-Fiction and Children’s. Last year’s winners were
Gabriel Gbadamosi’s Vauxhall, published by the UK’s Saqi Books;
Khalaf Al Habtoor’s Autobiography, published by Dubai-based
Motivate; and Cornelia Maude Spelman’s When I Feel Worried,
published by Albert Whitman & Company of Chicago, which,
incidentally, is currently celebrating its 95th anniversary.
Like the Oscars in Los Angeles, the SIBF Awards also include
an industry segment, a chance to recognise the outstanding
achievement of publishers large and small and the work of those
many individuals behind the scenes. Awards are given to the Best
Local Publisher, the Best Arab Publisher and the Best International
Publisher. In 2013 these were awarded to Abu Dhabi’s National
Library, the Centre for Arab Unity Studies in Lebanon, and DC
Books of India, respectively.
In short, it is an impressive occasion, one that underlines
Sharjah’s status as the cultural emirate – and adds a bit of show
business hoopla into the mix too.
Dubai may have the tallest tower
and Doha may one day have the fancy
football stadia, but when it comes to awards
ceremonies that combine glitz and gravitas,
the Sharjah International Book Fair Awards
has a commanding presence.
Held on the opening morning of
the Fair, it is a dazzling multimedia
presentation that has Hollywood
production values – pulsating
music, sonorous voiceovers,
video footage on three
giant screens and enough
swooping spotlights to
make it seem like an Arabic
Oscars, not to mention
a top table that resembles the
UAE’s Supreme Council. This is a VIP occasion and then some,
undoubtedly one of the key dates on the UAE calendar.
The audience includes international publishers and agents,
novelists and writers, as well as numerous government ministers
from across the region. Last year saw Jeffrey Archer join the
top table, while Young Suk Chi, President of the International
Publishers Association, was among those who spoke, praising
the work the Fair was doing in bringing books to readers “in the
middle of the most tumultuous and exciting time in publishing”.
The event has grown in stature under the guidance of
Sharjah’s Ruler, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammad
Al Qasimi, and today is beamed around the Arab world to
an audience of several million. His Highness often uses it as a
platform to speak to this wider world, especially to voice his
belief in books as a civilising force for good. Last year, he said:
“Thanks to Allah and to the hard work of its leaders, and the
diligence of its people, the UAE has reached this level of cultural
and civilisational sophistication, aspiring to develop the human
mind and spirit.”
During the Fair’s long history the Awards have expanded and
they now recognise international talent, as well as home-grown
excellence. This outward-looking stance is in keeping with His
Highness’ belief in international cultural diplomacy and the
importance afforded to books at a government level.
There are now several awards, beginning with the Cultural
GliTZ, GlaMour, GraViTas
Personality of the Year Award announced prior to the Fair but
the sharjah international
book fair awards 2014 –