No fewer than 411 titles were submitted for the annual Sheikh Zayed Book Award, one of the most prestigious prizes in Arabic literature, and that has been narrowed down to just 21, of which 7 are from Morocco.

The award, established in 2007 in memory of the late USE president and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who died in 2004, is worth almost $2 million across all categories, and is one more example of the remarkable focus on books and literature that makes the UAE stand out as a cultural beacon in the Arab world.

But it is Morocco, in the far west of Arab North Africa, that dominates the awards so far this year (longlist November 2019, final award April 2020).

The competition for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award has two main categories.

The “Contributions to the Development of Nations” category received 223 submissions, but only eleven titles will be considered for the grand prize.

Two books selected to compete in this category are authored by Moroccans: “The Crisis of Reading and Culture in Morocco and the Arab world” by Mohamed Bousselam and “Ibn Rushd and the Construction of the Arab Intellectual Renaissance” by Aziz Haddadi.

Ten books from 188 submissions will compete in the “Arts and Critical Studies Category.” Moroccan writers Abdurrahman Tamara, Lahcen Ben Aiza, Abderrahim Jiran, and Mohammad Amarach dominate this category, holding half of the participating titles.

The competition will also give one award in several additional categories. The official titles of these categories have not yet been announced but will include “Cultural Personality of the Year.”

In previous years, these categories included “Children’s Literature,” “Young Author,” “Translation,” “Literature,” “Literary and Art Criticism,” “Arab Culture in Other Languages,” and “Publishing and Technology.”

Read more over at Morocco World News.