Literary and military works are the highlight at ADIBF special events - GulfToday

Literary and military works are the highlight at ADIBF special events

Naguib Mahfouz 2

The Naguib Mahfouz space at ADIBF.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The 33rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF 2024), which recently concluded its activities in the UAE capital, celebrated the rich cultural legacy of renowned Egyptian author and novelist Naguib Mahfouz, the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Mahfouz was selected as the Focus Personality of the 2024 Fair, which dedicated a comprehensive and diverse programme to showcase his achievements and highlight its impact on the thought and knowledge of the Arab region and the world.

The programme provided an opportunity to engage with Mahfouz’s personality and discover its essence, through audiovisual tools, seminars and critical sessions. It was distributed across the activities and events of ADIBF, covering the prominent aspects of Mahfouz’s life and career. A dedicated pavilion showcased his achievements, offering visitors an immersive experience to explore his life and the worlds he created, underlining his literary and humanistic influence. Additionally, the agenda included daily sessions as part of the ADIBF Cultural Programme.

Mahfouz’s works have shaped the consciousness of an entire generation and played a part in advancing the status of the Arabic language. The Focus Personality programme explored diverse themes in a series of sessions hosting accomplished authors, thinkers and artists from various parts of the Arab world, who showcased Mahfouz’s timeless impact. Notable activities included a session titled Naguib Mahfouz: A Mirror of History and Society, which discussed his works from sociological and historical perspectives; a session on Naguib Mahfouz: Beginnings and Endings that shed light on Mahfouz’s early and later works; a session titled Companions of Naguib Mahfouz, which hosted figures close to Naguib Mahfouz to discuss their memories of him; and a session on Naguib Mahfouz and Criticism that explored his relationship with this art and the trends and currents that have addressed his literature.

Naguib Mahfouz 1 Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Cultural Programme also included a session titled Naguib Mahfouz: The Legacy Lives On that shed light on the important possessions and documents in museums related to the author, as well as a roundtable discussion titled Naguib Mahfouz in the Eyes of the World, which addressed the translation of his works into different world languages. ADIBF also unveiled the signing ceremony of the Arabic edition of Dr. Michael Knights’ book The Race for Mukalla: Arabian Elite Forces and the War Against Al-Qaeda, published by Kalima project for translation. The book vividly portrays the bravery of the special Emirati Armed Forces in counter terrorism operations and their fierce engagement with Al-Qaeda in Mukalla, Yemen. The event was attended by Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), along with military and political figures, authors, military and political matters enthusiasts, and the media. The Race for Mukalla chronicles a crucial phase in the conflict, focusing on the UAE’s role in the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s counterterrorism operations and confrontations with Al-Qaeda in Mukalla, thwarting the expansion of terrorist organisations. The book is dedicated to Emirati martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the 2015 battles in Ma’rib province, and was unveiled in a session with a discussion led by Dr. Bilal Orfali, Sheikh Zayed Chair for Arabic and Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut. Comprising three sections and 12 chapters, the volume covers the period between 2015 and 2016 amidst the raging war in the Middle East against extremist terrorist groups, most notably the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS, which sought to subjugate new territories.

Naguib Mahfouz 3  The cover of the book ‘The Race for Mukalla.’

The book diverges from war events familiar to Western audiences (such as the destruction of Syrian and Iraqi cities Mosul and Raqqa) and instead, for the first time, recounts firsthand narratives, through interviews, with a select group of Emirati elite forces involved in the operation. It provides detailed accounts of the lesser-known efforts undertaken by the Gulf Arab States in collaborating with Yemeni forces to prevent extremists from seizing control of the oil-rich Arab cradle of Ma’rib and to expel terrorists from the coastal city of Mukalla. Known as the ‘Garden of the Arabian Sea’, the Mukalla region is abundant in natural resources and oil.

Knights said that the book reflects on the strategic and humanitarian directive of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. His Highness emphasised the importance of Arab forces protecting the region themselves, stating: “Islam has been hijacked by a small group. Our mission is to correct that; this is not the task of Americans or others.” Knights is a military affairs specialist who holds a Ph.D. from the War Studies Department at the Royal College in London, and has extensive field experience in conflict zones and the fight against extremist forces. He expressed gratitude to the ADIBF organisers, ALC and Kalima, for the accurate translation of the book.

He stated that his books, 25 Days to Aden and The Race for Mukalla, are among the pioneering contemporary military history works that explore the courageous role of the UAE forces in wars and their adept utilisation of military capabilities acquired over five decades. Knights said: “I faced intriguing challenges in detailing the events, especially the chapter on the survival of some soldiers from an ambush set by Al-Qaeda, as narrated by an Emirati army leader.” He underscored the importance of documenting testimonies from individuals and soldiers present on the battlefield, stressing the necessity for each war to have its own dedicated archive.


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