The International Prize for Arabic Fiction was awarded to Raja Alem, a Saudi and the first woman to win the prize which began in 2008,for hernovel, The Dove's Necklace which explores the secret world of Mecca. She shared the prize of $50,000 withMohammed Achaari of Morocco. His novel, The Arch and the Butterfly, takes on Islamic extremism and its impact on one family.
The prize, funded by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy, means their books will be translated into English with the goal of reaching a wider audience. Both authors tackle controversial subjects and the affair, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi Monday night before the official opening of the Abu Dhabi book fair Tuesday,felt in synch with the political news coming out of the region. As reported in The National, an English language Abu Dhabi newspaper, both authors agreed it is "the best time " to be a Middle Eastern writer. Achaari added, "There is a pleasant storm causing havoc in our region. It brings with it a new bright spring with new flowers and new novels." Alem, whose previous work has been translated, lifts the veil on Mecca, with a backdrop of a Saudi's woman and her relationship with a German man. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, managing director of the emirates Foundation said, "the prize had broadened the readership of Arabic literature throughout the Arab world.