Arab Reading Champion believes victory will give hope to youth of her homeland
Hadeel Anwar, a Grade 7 student from Khartoum, shed tears of joy as she was announced the winner of this year's Arab Reading Challenge.
The 13-year-old Sudanese girl who was crowned Arab reading champion on Wednesday said her win was a huge achievement for Sudan, considering the transition period her country is going through.
Hadeel Anwar, a Grade 7 student from Khartoum, shed tears of joy as she was announced the winner of this year's Arab Reading Challenge (ARC), receiving the trophy from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, during a grand ceremony at the Dubai Opera.
Scores of Sudanese visitors, relatives and friends cheered Anwar on with a traditional, high-pitched vocal sound, called Zagroutha, and proudly waved their nation's flag.
Anwar won Dh500,000 by beating 13.5 million students from 49 countries who participated in the fourth edition of the ARC.
Moments after she was declared the winner, an emotional Anwar told Khaleej Times: "This win means a lot to me because I didn't expect that I will win. We raised the name of our country. We achieved the dream of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, which is to highlight the Arabic language.
"I am also proud because I represented the name of my country and such a win will be recorded as an achievement for Sudan. I thank everyone who supported me."
She believes the recognition will "give hope" to the young citizens of Sudan who have grown up seeing unrest in their homeland. And with this inspiration, they shall be empowered to work towards "achieving great things", she said.
In April this year - and after several months of demonstrations - veteran president Omar Hassan Al Bashir was ousted after ruling for over three decades.
The winner's parents were over the moon to see their only child bag the prize of the world's largest reading challenge.
Anwar's father Zubair Anwar told Khaleej Times: "I expected that Hadeel will get a high rank and I'm so proud to see my daughter winning in such great challenge. Our country needed this kind of motivation, where the world gets to know our country. The reading challenge will help Hadeel reach her goals. I pray that Allah guides her."
Her mother, Sana Altom, knew she would win because "she worked very hard for the ARC".
"I was so happy when she won. Everybody in Sudan was wishing her the best. They wanted her to raise the name of the country high," she said.
A library for Khartoum
When asked how she would use the prize money, Anwar said she would build a library in Khartoum to promote reading in her country.
During the event, she beat four other finalists - who were representing Kuwait, Tunisia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia - by showing her ability to communicate accurately and creatively in Arabic and presenting the diverse knowledge she learnt from various books.
The ARC required participants to read at least 50 books and summarise them in a report. It held many different rounds to narrow down the competitors.
The 16 semi-finalists from 14 countries took part in several challenges before a judging panel that evaluated their reading comprehension, critical and analytical skills, general knowledge, and creative expression in Arabic.
All semi-finalists have been awarded full scholarships from Abu Dhabi University and will be able to study in their preferred field.
Nations that read will lead the future: Mohammed
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, congratulated the winners and participants of the challenge.
"The Arab world has been rewarded with the Arab reading champions and their passion for knowledge and eagerness to become the main pillars of the prosperous future of their countries. The Arab reading champions are the hope for our region to effectively contribute to the journey of human progress," he said.
"Our youth demonstrate our region's capability to reignite its profound history as a beacon of civilisation and knowledge."
Sheikh Mohammed said each of the 13.5 million students who joined the challenge present "hope for a better tomorrow".
"Reading is the first step towards a better future driven by knowledge and learning. Nations that read will lead the future."
OTHER PRIZES GIVEN AT THE CEREMONY
>Saudi Arabia's Imam Al Nawawi School for Boys wins the
Dh1-million 'Best School' award
>Egyptian Amira Najeeb won the title 'Outstanding Supervisor' of the Arab world
>Sweden's Mahmoud Bilal was named the winner among Arab students living in foreign countries
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