Ithra expands ‘iRead’ competition to participants from all Arab countries
President and CEO of Saudi Aramco Eng. Amin Al-Nasser announced the expansion of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) flagship Arabic reading competition iRead beyond Saudi Arabia to readers across the Arab world for its upcoming edition, now open for submissions.
The announcement was made at the closing ceremony of iRead's 7th edition, held on Saturday, where this year's winners were awarded.
The ceremony, held at Ithra's premises in the Eastern Province, hosted a large gathering of intellectuals and writers, who were briefed on the storied journey of the winners throughout the competition.
The ceremony also honored those who won the titles of "The Reader of the Year," "Reading Ambassador," and "Translation Ambassador", where Al-Nasser expressed his congratulations to the winners and participants.
Expanding the impact of the competition across the Arab cultural landscape, Nasser announced that iRead will be open to include all readers from all Arab countries in the next edition of the program.
Al-Nasser additionally expressed hope towards celebrating the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to a Saudi author in the future, and that the iRead competition will play a role towards that achievement.
Hussain Hanbazazah, director of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), expressed his utmost pride in the participants and winners of the iRead competition.
"iRead has witnessed rapid development since its inception in 2013, as well as an increase in the number of participants which to date exceeded 75,000 readers.
“With its continued growth, Ithra has continually developed the program on an annual basis, expanding and enhancing it further so that more bibliophiles can have the opportunity to join. Reading is one of the pillars of the Arabic language, and one that can become a tool of human development and innovation," he said.
Hanbazazah additionally pointed out the role played by the competition in promoting knowledge and raising awareness by encouraging youth to compete.
He praised the role that Ithra continues to play in nurturing a passion for literature and reading through its library, which has received more than one million visitors since the center's inception.
The closing ceremony of this year's edition witnessed the participation and attendance of several high-profile dignitaries as speakers, panelists and special guests engaging in dialogues and discussions on key literary and cultural topics.
Attendees included writer, novelist, and Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Orhan Pamuk, as a guest of honor, Moroccan intellectual Dr. Abdel Fattah Kilito, a cultural attendee at the ceremony and Bahraini poet Qassem Haddad.
A panel discussion with Dr. Saad Al-Bazai from Saudi Arabia, Kuwaiti novelist Buthaina Al-Issa, and Sudanese poet Rawdha Al-Hajj; a discussion session with Dr. Abdullah Al-Sufyani and Professor Muhammad Al-Fraih, was moderated by Egyptian writer Muhammad Shoair.
The final program included book signings of the latest works by Booker Prize-nominated Iraqi novelist Mohsen Al-Ramli and Omani novelist Bushra Khalfan, the latest works of Emirati poet and short story writer Sultan Al-Amimi, Moroccan writer Dr. Abdel Fattah Kilito, and Egyptian novelist Tariq Imam, alongside further discussion sessions.