Writer Elias Sanbar and Spain’s Biblioteca Islámica to receive 2015 UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture


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The author Elias Sanbar and the Islamic Library of Spain’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, (AECID) have been named to receive the 2015 UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture. An international jury of experts chose the laureates for their commitment to the dissemination of Arab culture around the world. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, will present them with the Prize at a ceremony at the Organization’s Headquarters on 14 April (Room IV).

Elias Sanbar (Haifa, 1947) is one of the most distinguished Arab intellectuals today, whose activities encompass literature, law, history, translation, journalism and diplomacy. Over four decades, he has brought a significant contribution to an improved understanding of Arab culture. In 1981, he co-founded one of the most respected publications about Palestine anywhere, La Revue d’études palestiniennes, of which he was the editor-in-chief for 25 years. His translations into French of the work of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish is a major contribution to the dissemination of Arab culture. He also co-authored Le rescapé et l’exilé (The Survivor and the Exiled) with Holocaust survivor Stéphane Hessel, a book that has had considerable international impact. Since 2012, Elias Sanbar has also been Palestine’s Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.

The Biblioteca Islámica, the Islamic Library of Spain’s Agency for International Cooperation and Development, has become an essential international reference in the field of Arabic and Andalusian studies due to the wealth of its collections and the services it provides. Based in Madrid since its founding in 1954, the library has a collection of 100,000 volumes. Notable publications to be found among its prized possessions include the Lexicon arabicum by Franciscus Raphelengius (1613), Thesaurus linguarum Orientalium Turcicae-Arabicae-Persicae by Franciszek Mesgnien Meniński, published from 1680 to 1687, and Gramática arábigo-española by Francisco Cañes, published in Madrid in 1775.

The Islamic Library collaborates actively with university departments offering courses of Arabic and Islamic culture. It takes part in international conferences organized by the European Association of Middle East Libraries (MELCOM) and promotes intercultural dialogue by entering into partnerships with scientific and educational associations in the Arab world. The Library also brings its support to other Arab libraries through training and exchanges.

Created in 1998 at the initiative of the United Arab Emirates, the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture rewards the efforts of two personalities or organizations, one from an Arab country and one from any other country, who have made a significant contribution to the development, dissemination and promotion of Arab culture in the world. The Prize carries a monetary value of $60,000, equally divided between the two laureates.


Media contact:

Lucía Iglesias Kuntz –UNESCO Media Services + 33 (0)1 45 68 17 02, l.iglesias(at)unesco.org