Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region, the winners of the inaugural Sard Al Thahab (Golden Narrative) Award, which honours Emirati, Arab and international storytellers and narrators of literature and folktales, have been revealed by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC).

In the Unpublished Short Story category, four short stories were recognised for their outstanding quality and artistic excellence. The first winner, Zilzal (Earthquake) by Moroccan author Abdelrahim Selili tells the story of an earthquake in Morocco and the character of a grandmother involved in the disaster.

Ibn Aarous: Almataha w Alkhalas (Ibn Aarous: The Maze and the Salvation) by Mahmoud Saeed Mohamed from Egypt explores the transformation of Ahmed Al Mansour from a rebellious character who intercepted caravans to a refined poet.

Ma Bayn Shiqqay Raha (Between Two Millstones) by Egyptian author Rania Ahmed Helal Kamel details the traditional grinding millstone, which was an essential part of village life.

The fourth winner in this category was Marthiyat al-’Itr wal-Bahr (Elegy of Fragrance and the Sea) by Huda Al Shamashi from Morocco, which details Andalusian heritage and the Mediterranean Sea.

In the Published Short Story category, the winner was Indama Kanat al-Ard Murabaa (When the Earth Was Square) by UAE National writer Lulwah Al Mansouri, published by the Emirates Writers Union and Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation in 2020. The author drew her inspiration for the work from the UAE environment.

In the Popular Narratives category, the winner was the collection of stories Banat Waq Waq wa hikayat 'ukhraa (The Girls of Waq Waq and Other Stories) by Dr Abdulaziz Al Musallam from the UAE, published by the Sharjah Institute for Heritage in 2023. The collection explores Emirati and Arab folk storytelling and engages new generations to preserve their cultural identity.

The Illustrated Story award went to Al Zahra allati la Tamoot (The Flower That Never Dies) by UAE National artist Mohamed Hassan Ahmed, while the Narrators category was won by Dr Najima Taitai from Morocco for her storytelling.

The Emirati Narration category award went to French-language novel Le Faucon (The Falcon) by French author Gilbert Sinoué, published by Gallimard in 2020. The novel details the historical milestones in the life of the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

His Excellency Saood Abdulaziz Al Hosani, Undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said: “Our Arabic language undeniably possesses an illustrious narrative heritage and extensive history, and it is essential to acknowledge, build upon and accumulate experiences to ensure its continuity and longevity. We take great pride in our continuous efforts to enrich the written word in Arabic with new and outstanding publications that reflect the rich heritage of our nation. We celebrate those who have gone beyond traditional narrative conventions with their creative works, offering new and thought-provoking content, contributing greatly to Abu Dhabi’s standing as a cultural and artistic hub, rooted in the region and connected to the world.”

His Excellency Dr Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the ALC, said: “The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre is committed to documenting the treasures and creative works of the Arabic language, celebrating new and notable projects which elevate the intellectual and cultural awareness of our society. With the Sard Al Thahab Award, we aim to shine a light on the art of storytelling, which is the cornerstone of literary creativity. The award recognises creative pioneers and supports an environment that nurtures quality, authenticity, and individuality in storytelling.”

His Excellency Abdulla Majed Al Ali, Chairman of the Sard Al Thahab Award’s Higher Committee and Director General of the National Library and Archives, said: “The Sard Al Thahab Award is a new step forward in Abu Dhabi’s cultural journey, honouring an inspiring group of creators whose works present innovative takes on Emirati folk and narrative arts and track the UAE’s history and development through local, Arab and global studies.

“The inaugural edition has been a remarkable success, receiving a diverse range of submissions boasting a strong connection to the deep-seated traditions of Emirati and Arab culture. We are confident that the award, in all of its upcoming editions, will contribute to enriching the local and international cultural scene by highlighting unique new voices.”

The Higher Committee of the Sard Al Thahab Award will hold a special award ceremony for the winners at 8pm on 6 December 2023 at Al Dhafra Castle.