2011 International Prize for Arabic Fiction

International Prize for Arabic Fiction

The Arch and the Butterfly and The Doves’ Necklace are the joint winners of International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011

• Moroccan author Mohammed Achaari and Saudi Arabian author Raja Alem share prestigious Arab fiction prize

• Prize shared between two winners for the first time

• First woman winner

The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari and The Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem are today, Monday 14 March, announced as joint winners of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011. This is the first time the Prize has been split between two novelists.

The winners were announced by this year’s Chair of Judges, the celebrated Iraqi poet and novelist Fadhil Al-Azzawi, at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

Fadhil Al-Azzawi comments: “The Judging Panel decided to give the Prize equally to two novels, which are The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari and The Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem. They are two wonderful novels with great literary quality and they both deal with important and realistic problems in the Middle East, problems which have been reflected on banners during the recent protests that have shaken the Arab world, demanding change.

“The first novel, The Arch and the Butterfly, deals with Islamic extremism and terrorism and its destructive effect upon Arabic society itself, rather than on the West. The second, The Doves’ Necklace, reveals the true face of Mecca: behind the city’s holy veil there is another Mecca, where many crimes are committed and there is also corruption, prostitution and mafias of building contractors who are destroying the historic areas of the city, and therefore its soul, for commercial gain.”

This year’s winners were chosen from a shortlist of six titles, which was announced in Doha, Qatar, in December 2010 by Al-Azzawi and the four other Arabic literature specialists on the 2011 Judging Panel: Bahraini academic, researcher and critic Munira al-Fadhel; Italian academic, translator and critic Isabella Camera d’Afflitto; Jordanian writer and journalist Amjad Nasser, and Moroccan writer and critic Said Yaktine. The winner, shortlist and longlist of 16 titles were selected solely on the basis of literary quality and without regard to nationality, region, religion, gender or age.

During today’s awards ceremony, each of the shortlisted finalists was congratulated by the Judging Panel and representatives from the Prize’s two main supporters, the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy and the Booker Prize Foundation, before being awarded 10,000 US Dollars by HE Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, the Foundation’s Managing Director and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.

Traditionally the winner is awarded a further 50,000 US Dollars but, as this year sees two winners, the prize money will be split equally between them. Both winners are guaranteed an English translation of their winning novels. Winners of the Prize can look forward to increased book sales and international recognition.

Jonathan Taylor, the Prize’s Chair of Trustees, commented: “These are interesting times for Arabic fiction, which are reflected in today’s exceptional announcement. For the first time the Judges decided that the Prize should be shared between two extraordinary books selected from an outstanding shortlist.”

Salwa Mikdadi, Head of the Arts and Culture Programme at the Emirates Foundation, added: “We are proud to acclaim two worthy winners – and the first winning female novelist! We have continued as primary funder of the Prize; however I must stress that the Foundation plays no part in managing the award or selecting either judges or winning novels. We are happy to help preserve the Prize’s independence.”

The Prize was established in 2007 to address the limited international availability of high quality Arab fiction. Based on the successful model of the Man Booker Prize, it recognises the very best of contemporary Arabic writing over the past year and, by doing so, aims to encourage recognition of high quality Arabic fiction, reward Arab writers and lead to increased international readership through translation.

Now in its fourth year, the Prize has had a significant impact on the Arabic literary scene. It has become the preeminent international prize for Arabic literary fiction and is widely followed internationally. The first two winners of the Prize – Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher (2008) and Azazel by Youssef Ziedan (2009) – have not only secured English publications of their novels, through Sceptre (Hodder & Stoughton) and Atlantic Books respectively, but also a number of other international translations as a result of the Prize. News of an English translation of last year’s winner, Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles by Abdo Khal (2010), is imminent.

The 2011 winner announcement took place on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2011.
Mohammed Achaari and Raja Alem will take part in their first public event as winners of the Prize at the book fair on Tuesday 15 March, and there will also be an audience with some of the shortlisted finalists.

Details as follows, at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair:

•  Al Multaqa Book Club event with IPAF shortlisted authors

Venue: Al Multaqa’s salon, Hall B, Stand E46, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, ADNEC

Host: Asma Siddiq

Time: 1700-1900 hrs

Participants: Khaled al-Berry, Amir Tag Elsir and Bensalem Himmich


• Meet the Winners of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011

Venue: KITAB Sofa, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, ADNEC

Time: 2000-2100 hrs

Participants: Mohammed Achaari and Raja Alem


Further information on the above events, as well as additional events with IPAF authors at the fair, can be found on the book fair’s website:


For further information and press enquiries please contact Colman Getty:

In the UAE: Katy MacMillan-Scott: +44 (0)7786567887

or Doha Al Hamad: + 971 (0)50 662 7930

In London: Ellie Hughes: +44 (0)20 7631 2666

Email: /


You may also contact the Prize administration at:




Mohammed Achaari is a Moroccan poet born in 1951. He published his first poetry collection in 1978. He has written 10 books of poetry, a short story collection and a novel. He has worked in journalism and politics, which led him to take up various government posts, including that of Minister of Culture in Morocco.

The Arch and the Butterfly

Tackling the themes of Islamic extremism and terrorism from a new angle, The Arch and the Butterfly explores the effect of terrorism on family life. It tells the story of a left-wing father who one day receives a letter from Al-Qaeda informing him that his son, who he believes is studying in Paris, has died a martyr in Afghanistan. The novel looks at the impact of this shocking news on the life of its hero and consequently on his relationship with his wife.



Raja Alem is a Saudi novelist. She began publishing her work in the cultural supplement of Riyadh newspaper and began writing experimental plays for the theatre. She has won many prizes, the most recent of which was in 2005 – the Arabic Women’s Creative Writing Prize, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of UNESCO; and the Lebanese Literary Club Prize, in Paris, in 2008. Some of her works have been translated into English and Spanish.

The Doves’ Necklace

The secret life of the holy city of Mecca is revealed in this astonishing story. The world painted by the heroine embraces everything from crime and religious extremism to the exploitation of foreign workers by a mafia of building contractors, who are destroying the historic areas of the city. This bleak scene is contrasted with the beauty of heroine’s love letters to her German boyfriend.


Notes to Editors

• Spokespeople for the Prize are available for comment. To arrange an interview, please contact: Katy MacMillan-Scott at Colman Getty on mobile in UAE: +44 (0)7786567887 or If you are calling from the UK, you can contact Ellie Hughes at Colman Getty on: 0044 (0)20 7631 2666 /


• For the full IPAF 2011 shortlist click here

• For the longlist of 16 titles, selected from a total of 123 submissions, click here

• The first three winners of the Prize are:

  2008: Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher (Egypt)

  2009: Azazel by Youssef Ziedan (Egypt)

  2010: Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles by Abdo Khal (Saudi Arabia)

• For a full history of the Prize visit the website: The site features the rules of entry, background information and breaking news and is the quickest way for the Prize’s worldwide audience to access information

• The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is funded by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy, one of the leading philanthropic organisations in the UAE

• The Prize is also supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and Etihad Airways

• An independent Board of Trustees, drawn from across the Arab world and beyond, is responsible for the overall management of the Prize. The Trustees are, in alphabetical order: Marie-Thérèse Abdel-Messih, Professor of English & Comparative Literature, University of Cairo, Egypt, currently on secondment at Kuwait University; Nouri Abid, Publisher, L'Edition Med Ali, Tunisia; Bachar Chebaro, Publisher, Scientific Arab Publishers, Lebanon; Dr. Peter Clark OBE, Independent Consultant and Writer, Middle East Cultural Advisory Services, UK; Rasheed El-Enany, Professor of Modern Arabic Literature, University of Exeter, and Series Editor of Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature, UK; Joumana Haddad, writer, poet, journalist and first IPAF Administrator; Khaled Hroub, Arab academic and director of Cambridge Arab Media Project (CAMP); Assia Moussei, President and Publishing Manager of El Ikhtilef publishing house, translator and journalist, Algeria; Zaki Nusseibeh, Advisor, Ministry of Presidential Affairs – Vice-Chairman, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage; Margaret Obank, Publisher, Banipal magazine of Modern Arab Literature, UK; William Sieghart, Chairman & Founder, Forward Publishing, National Poetry Day, UK; Yasir Suleiman, Professor of Arabic, University of Cambridge, UK; Evelyn Smith, Company Secretary, Booker Prize Foundation, UK; Jonathan Taylor CBE, Chairman, Booker Prize Foundation, UK

• In addition to the annual Prize, IPAF supports an annual nadwa (writers’ workshop) for emerging writers from across the Arab world. The inaugural nadwa took place in November 2009 and included eight writers, who had been recommended by IPAF Judges as writers of exceptional promise. The result was eight new pieces of fiction which have been published in English and Arabic by Dar Al Saqi Books in Emerging Arab Voices: Nadwa1, which was launched at Sharjah International Book Fair on 27 October 2010 and in the UK in January 2011. A second workshop took place in Abu Dhabi in October 2010 with seven writers. Both nadwas were run under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region, UAE

• The Emirates Foundation is one of the UAE’s foremost philanthropic organizations. It offers financial and technical support to projects that enrich the lives of people in the Emirates, particularly in the areas of youth development, knowledge creation, and society and culture. The Foundation facilitates links between commercial businesses and the public sector to devise new projects and strengthen existing nonprofit initiatives throughout the country. Its funding comes from programme-rated contributions and a capital reserve supported by the Abu Dhabi government and private companies. Launched on April 12, 2005 by H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, its Board of Directors is chaired by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs


Published Date - 14/03/2011