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Are you a writer looking to increase the reach of your book, or make a name for yourself in the market? Then you should certainly apply to a creative writing competition. There is a good number of platforms targeting the Arab public; and many young Arab writers launched their writing careers via these competitions.

There are two kinds of creative writing awards. The first is given to works that have already been published; these awards usually provide a cash prize and translation of the winning literary piece into English. This type also causes an increase in sales of the novel and brings spotlight to the writer. The second kind of awards targets works that have never been published. Institutions that offer these awards often provide a cash prize to print the winning literary work and sometimes translate it too. These awards offer a great starting place for a first novel, as they attract media attention to the selected works. Eritrean novelist Haji Jaber benefited from the second type for his debut novel “Samrawit”.

The following is a list of some awards that provide an opportunity for writers targeting the Arabic literature arena. 

Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature

The Naguib Mahfouz Medal is one of the most renowned and prestigious awards of the highest caliber in the Arab world. The award has been a leading gateway for many literary works, most recently “The Longing of the Dervish” by Sudanese author Hammour Ziada. The American University in 'Almarai', sans-serif !important oversees the award and selects winners. This year the award will be presented to the twentieth winning author. It is worth mentioning that the award does not set complicated submission terms and conditions; which often causes controversy as to the standards through which submitted work is assessed. Applicants are simply requested to submit their novel by the end of June of each year, and the winner is announced on December 11th (Naguib Mahfouz’s birthday).


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The International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Informally known as the “Arabic Booker”, the prize is organized by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Tourism and Culture in partnership with the British Booker Prize. The competition has been ongoing since 2008 earning it great following and bringing great fame to many works, such as Saud Alsanousi’s novel “Bamboo Stalk.” The financial value of the award is one of the highest in the region so far. The competition starts accepting submissions on April 1 and closes on June 30. Submissions are made via publishing houses not authors.

To apply visit the competition’s website.
Tayeb Salih International Prize for Creative Writing

Organized by Zain Telecommunications company over five years ago in Khartoum to commemorate the late Sudanese writer and thinker Tayeb Salih. The award is open to all literary works written in Arabic in the categories of novels and short stories, and a third category which alternates annually between poetry, prose and theater, literary critique and children’s stories. The third category for 2015 was children’s stories.

Terms of the contest are announced on the award’s official website. Submissions for the award are accepted starting May and close in August of every year. The top three winners of every category are announced in February on the anniversary of Tayeb Salih’s passing.

The Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity

This year marks the award’s twentieth year. The award is organized by the Culture and Information Department of the Government of Sharjah, and targets writers who have never published before. Submissions are accepted in the categories of novels, short stories, poetry, plays and literary critique.

Submissions are accepted until November 30th, and winners are announced in February. The terms of submission and details of the competition can be found on the department’s website. 

Katara Prize for Arabic Novel

The Katara Cultural Village Foundation in Qatar launched the prize over a year ago, offering generous financial awards to five winning works in every category namely: pre-published novels, novels published for the first time and literary critique.

It is worth mentioning that for the first time in the history of Arab literary prizes, the Katara Prize awards the best Arabic novel that is convertible into a work of drama. The winner is selected from the winning unpublished works during the same year.

Submissions are accepted starting January and until the end of December.

Applications and conditions of the prize are available on the website.

Tayeb Salih Award for Innovative Novel Writing

This award is organized by the Abdul Karim Mirghani Cultural Center (AKMCC) in Omdurman, which is one of the oldest cultural centers in Sudan. It is notable that the competition is based on Tayeb Salih’s wish before his passing, and was created to support Sudanese writers and literature.

The fourteenth round of the competition accepts submissions until June 2016, and results are announced in October of the same year. More information can be found here. 

Tasneem Dahab

Tasneem is a writer, journalist and blogger interested in Sudanese culture. She is passionate about literature, cultural and societal exchanges through social media platforms. She was born in KSA in 1991 and graduated with a BSc in Chemistry from Sudan University for Science and Technology. She acknowledges that chemistry paved the road for her interest in literature and writing, and tackles it wholeheartedly. Tasneem can be reached via .