Actors, politicians, business tycoons, writers and academics gathered at the Cairo Opera House on Monday for the 7th Annual Sawiris Cultural Award ceremony, a prestigious Egyptian literary prize, under the theme "Year of the Egyptian Revolution and Naguib Mahfouz Centennial." Established in 2005 by the Sawiris Foundation, a human development organisation set up by the wealthy Sawiris family, the award ceremony, which has a top prize of LE100,000, was described by the late Egyptian author Ibrahim Aslan as one of the most important literary awards in Egypt.
The established authors award went to the firm favourites: Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid for his novel In Every Week There’s A Friday and to Ahmed El-Khamisi for his collection of short stories entitled Canary. Abdel-Meguid, a renowned Egyptian novelist and winner of various awards including the Mahfouz Medal for Literature, wrote about the confessions of an online group in his award winning novel. El-Khamisi, a journalist and writer who has published over 10 books, covered both national and personal issues in his wide-ranging collection of 20 short stories.
Amber Planet by Mohamed Rabie, a newcomer who started out as blogger, and Sidi Barrani by Mohamed Salah El-Azab, a novel he began at middle school, received this year’s emerging authors award. For the short stories category, the collection An Old Man’s Story Who Dies Each Time in the City He Dreams Of by Tarek Iman and The Triangle of Tens by Sherif Saleh won first and second places.
Controversially, no award was given in the established authors screenplay category due to the low quality of material submitted. Mohamed Salah El-Azab took a second award for his play Two Rooms and A Hall as an emerging author.
Finally Peter Iskandar’s play But It Does Revolve won joint first with Hamdy Alaadin’s The Eternal Trap for the best written play. Among established authors category, Emad Motawe won the award for Insomniacs.
Naguib Sawiris, a telecoms tycoon and founder of The Free Egyptians Party whose family set up the foundation, handed out the awards with his brother Samih Sawiris. Attendees expressed solidarity with Naguib as he currently faces charges of insulting Islam for publishing a controversial cartoon online.
Among the most notable attendees were actors Mahmoud Abdel Aziz and Samiha Ayoub, the Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, the former minister of culture Emad Abou-Ghazi and political analyst Hassan Nafaa.
The ceremony opened with a short documentary featuring Egypt’s literary greats from Taha Hussein to the late Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, whose centennial was recently celebrated. The film, mixing footage of Mahfouz playing a musical instrument with shots from Tahrir Square, ended with the often-quoted closing line of his novel, Children of The Alley: “we’ll witness the death of tyranny in our alley and the rise of light and wonders.”
Dr. Mohamed Abul-Ghar, an academic, politician and the head of the award’s board of trustees, gave the inaugural speech in which he said Egyptian intellectuals will stand against repression of freedom or art, emphasising that the Egyptian revolution continues even after ousting Mubarak. The Artistic Creativity Centre Studio choir then performed traditional Egyptian songs and recited poems of resistance.
Renowned Egyptian literary figures such as Khairy Shalaby, Salah Mari’e and Ibrahim Aslan, who passed away during last year, were commemorated during the event.