The Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) is today administered by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, which operates under the auspices of the Department of Culture and Tourism—Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi, it must be said, has its attractions, and these include the renowned Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with 82 domes and a capacity of 40,000 worshippers, as well as several internationally acclaimed museums, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the upcoming Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum.
What really makes Abu Dhabi stand out is its intellectual patrimony, of which the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is an extension. This generously supported award has an ambitious mission: to support the advancement and development of the Arabic language itself and further cement its status as a global lingua franca for science, education, culture, and literature. Books, above all, embody this discourse, which is why the Award has chosen to honor books, authors, and the institutions that support them.
In addition to the Award, the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre supports international efforts to spread the Arabic language around the world, both online in the digital world and in the real, analog world. Central to this is the annual Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF), which this year takes place May 23–29 and is expected to attract some 150,000 people. The theme of this year’s fair is “Inspire. Create. Enrich.” It will offer over 450 events and feature numerous leading literary and cultural figures from the region and around the world, including Syrian poet and perennial Nobel Prize–candidate Adonis; Indian feminist critic and literary theorist Gayatri Spivak; British writer Ed Husain, author of The Islamist; Dr. Bilal Orfali, professor and Sheikh Zayed Chair in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut; and Homi Bhabha, Indian-English leading thinker in colonial and postcolonial theory. This is in addition to a strong professional program and education program, which will cover a wide range of topics, including the rise of Afrofuturism, the future of Arabic-language education, the evolution of children’s book illustrations, best practices for rights selling, the ins-and-outs of antiquarian bookselling, and the publishing market in the United Arab Emirates.
The late Egyptian writer Dr. Taha Hussein (1889-1973), who is known by the moniker “The Dean of Arabic Literature” and is a figurehead for the Egyptian Renaissance and the Modernist movement in the Middle East and North Africa, has been named Personality of the Year for ADIBF 2022, and the fair will feature four seminars on his work and its lasting influence on Arabic literary studies. Germany will be the Guest of Honor nation. The ADIBF also includes all the features of previous years’ events, including book signings, creative workshops, live art, and poetry evenings.