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Arab reading champs one step away from Dh500,000 prize Filed on November 11, 2019 | Last updated on November 11, 2019 at 07.57 pm
arab reading, arab reading challenge, dh500,000, cash prize, prize

(Juidin Bernarrd/KT)

They credited their quick wit and avid appetite for reading for reaching this far in the contest.

These five youngsters have read their way to the finals of the largest-ever Arab literacy initiative. And for them, becoming the finalists of the Arab Reading Challenge (ARC) is a victory in itself. Ahead of the grand awards ceremony on Wednesday, they told Khaleej Times that they would be proud even without the coveted title that comes with a Dh500,000 prize money.

The five reading champs, who hail from Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Sudan, were deemed the best among the 13.5 million youngsters who joined the fourth edition of the challenge. They credited their quick wit and avid appetite for reading for reaching this far in the contest.

On Saturday, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had spoken highly of the 13.5 million young students who took part in the 2019 edition of the ARC. "We celebrate more than 13 million students in the Arab Reading Challenge, the largest Arab knowledge initiative. We are stronger with Arab youth who believe in the power of words," he had tweeted.

Launched by Sheikh Mohammed to encourage students to read as many books as possible (over 50) in one academic year, the challenge sees students from Years 1 to 12 from schools across the Arab world. It's open to anyone in the Mena region, as well as Arabs living abroad, aged between 8 and 18 years.

Bookish with a smile: Abdulaziz Al Khaldi, 17, Kuwait

Abdelaziz has all the traits of a leader. He attributes his success to his trust in God, confidence, spontaneity and smile. "I have read lots of books on human resources development, biographies and novels."

He said the jury took many factors and criteria into consideration in the short-listing process: How interactive the competitors are, how up to the challenge they are, and their confidence in expressing themselves.

The tactful young man, who believes in the importance of eloquence and honesty, is a member of the students' parliament in Kuwait and also the chairperson of the students' council at his school.

He wants to spread the culture of peace in the world.

Third time is the charm: Fatima Al Zahra Akhyar, 16, Morocco

This is the third time that Fatima has taken part in the ARC. She has read over 300 books of different genres - history, literature, politics and economy - in under a year.

She has participated in several competitions - related to mathematics, general knowledge and sports - back home. "It is my family and teachers who encouraged me to enter this challenge. I think it is my reasoning and analytical critical reading that got me to the finals."

She feels her motivation and passion for reading are her strengths. "I have always been inclined to study both sciences and literature. In my previous participation, I managed to reach the finals in Morocco."

She wants to be a neurosurgeon and an author.

Poet, painter, writer: Aya Boutreea, 17, Tunisia

Aya credited her "distinguished style" of writing to her success.

"I seek to take a different path that makes me stand out from the rest."

It is her parents, especially her mother, who have given Aya all the support and the push she needs. She wants to be a physician and a writer. "I also like to paint and write poetry. I am hopeful of emerging a winner at the ceremony."

What has she gained out of this experience? "It has developed my character," she said.

"It has opened new horizons for me. Now that I have learned many new things and met people from different cultures, my dreams just grew bigger."

Quality matters, not quantity: Jumana Al Malki, 15, Saudi Arabia

Jumana was all smiles when she recounted to Khaleej Times how her good choices of books made her reach this stage of the competition. "I read lots of books about Russian literature, sciences, history, general culture and Arabic literature."

She said the knowledge she gained from the books and their quality are what propelled her to the finals. The teenager, who aspires to be a physicist, has taken part in science contests back home and enjoys the support of her school and parents.

The biggest challenge of the ARC she has faced is picking up seven books from the library and selecting three to give a summary in front of the jury with only half an hour to prepare.

Scientific bent of mind: Hadeel Anwar, 13, Sudan

Hadeel is interested in reading all kinds of books that can prove useful to humanity like literature and philosophy. Like her fellow contenders, she also aspires to be a neurosurgeon. "I am very grateful to my parents, without whom I would not be here today."

Her passion for sciences equals her love for literature. "I want to be an author and be able to influence people with my pen."

Hadeel, who has read hundreds of books, believes her participation in the challenge has enriched her knowledge in language and literature and has given her the opportunity to get to know different cultures.

Getting out of the 'danger zone' is one of her fondest memories from the contest.


Marie Nammour

Originally from Lebanon, Marie has been covering the Dubai Courts and the Public Prosecution, immigration and labour issues often, and the Dubai International Film Festival. A graduate from the Holy Spirit university of Kaslik, Jounieh, a city to the north of Beirut, she worked as an in-house reporter of international affairs at a leading TV station back home and a legal translator for a renowned law college in the Lebanese capital. Speaks fluently four languages and is fond of travelling, psychology, learning more and grown by now a rich ‘criminal’ imagination…

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