Members of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Culture (SCC) will meet Monday, 26 August, at 11:00am to vote on Egypt’s highest prizes in literature, science and the arts after a two-month delay that raised doubts that the prizes may be cancelled for only the second time in their history.
SCC Secretary General Said Tawfik told Ahram Online that the meeting would be headed by Egypt’s minister of culture, Saber Arab, who chairs the SCC. The meeting is expected to last until 6:00pm.
The persons who are allowed to vote on nominees for the prestigious "State Awards" are the 64 members of the SCC, half of them appointed as members due to their cultural contributions as writers, intellectuals or artists. The other half are appointed due to their positions as heads of Egyptian cultural institutions, along with the ministers of education and information, and university presidents.
The SCC receives nominations for the State Awards from cultural institutions several months before the meeting.
Tawfik told Ahram Online that the voting mechanism will not change this year, despite tabled amendments. A shortlist of nominees will be distributed to voters, but it will be more like a guide than a directive upon voters, according to Tawfik.
The State Awards were supposed to be disbursed in June. However, former Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz did not hold the required meeting to vote on prize recipients and refused to authorise any SCC members to do so in his stead.
The prizes are granted in the fields of social science, the arts and literature, distributed across four divisions: the Encouragement Award, the Excellency Award, and the Appreciation Award, and the Nile Award— the highest honour.
The Nile Award was originally named the “Mubarak Award,” but was changed in the aftermath of January 25 Revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power on 11 February 2011.
The total sum in prize monies is an estimated LE7 million (approximately $1 million).
The State Awards were launched in 1958 and were only cancelled once, in 1967, during the Six Days War between Egypt and Israel.
The Encouragement Award is granted every year to the best works in the fields of the arts, literature, social sciences and law and economic research. Every field has eight prizes each worth LE50,000.
The Excellency Award is granted every year in the fields of the arts, social sciences and literature, with each prize worth LE100,000 and accompanied by a silver medal. Political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan and economy expert Ahmed El-Naggar were among the winners of the prize last year.
The Appreciation Award is granted in the fields of the arts, literature and social sciences, with each field offering three prizes except for the social sciences, which offers only two. Each prize worth LE200,000 and is accompanied by a silver medal.
The Nile Award is granted every year in the fields of the arts, social sciences and literature. Each prize is worth LE400,000 and is accompanied with a golden medal. Nile Prizes were granted for the first time in 1999.
Poet Abderrahman El-Abnoudi, writers Bahaa Taher and Waheed Hamed, and cinema director Youssef Shahin were the most prominent figures that won the Nile Prize.
The SCC is considered one of the most important institutions within Egypt's ministry of culture, responsible for setting ministry policy and organising ministry activities.