On the evening of Saturday, January 8, organizers announced the winners of the 17th edition of the Sawiris Cultural Award in 10 categories, ranging from best children’s-book text and illustration to best novel from an emerging writer to best screenplay.
Sixteen artists and authors were honored at the ceremony, held at the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. This was the first year the Sawiris Award offered a prize for books for young readers.
The “Best Novel by an Established Writer” prize had two co-winners: Adel Asaad Merry’s Threads of Self (خيوط أقمشة الذات) and Muhammed Abu Zaid’s Spider in the Heart (عنكبوت في القلب).
The “Best Short-story Collection by an Established Writer” prize also had co-winners: Osama Habashi’s Try Not to See Me (حاول ألا تراني) and Mohamed Abdel Nabi’s Once Upon a Time (كان يا ما كان).
The “Best Novel by an Emerging Author” award went to Areej Gamal for her Dear Maryam, I Am Arwa (أنا أروى يا مريم), which revolves around a love story between two Egyptian women under the shadow of Egypt’s 2011 revolution. In a 2019 interview, Gamal asked, “Is there a better moment for such love to happen than during a revolution?”
Dear Maryam, I Am Arwa also won the prize’s translation award, which means the prize will support its translation to English. (Also read: Areej Gamal on Revolutions Against ‘What Many See As an Intuitive Truth.’)
Youssef Nabil took second place in this category with his The Last Meeting (اللقاء الأخير).
Omaima Sobhi took first prize in the category of “Best Short-story Collection by an Emerging Writer,” for her Visions of the Holy City (رؤى المدينة المقدسة), while second prize in that category went to two co-winners: Amira Badawi’s Six Places to Pray (ست زوايا للصلاة) and Mohamed Abdullah Sami’s Napoleon and the Monkey (نابليون والقرد).
The first-ever winners for “Best Book for Children Under the Age of 12” went to Ahmed Toson, for best text, and Samir Abdel Ghani, for best illustrations. Toson won for his Who’ll Bring Warmth to the City? (من يعيد الدفء للمدينة), while Abdel Ghani took the illustration prize for What Came Before the Watermelon (ما قبل البطيخ).
Prizes were also given out for Best Screenplay (to Dina Hamza as an established writer and Salma Abbas as emerging), Best Playwright (Ibrahim Al-Husseini and El Sayed Fahim), and “Best Work in the Field of Literary Criticism and Non-fiction,” which went to Mohsen Al-Balassi for his Journey of Kamel Al-Talmasani (رحلة كامل التلمساني).