Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 8 December 2019

#UAEReads: The well-read Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi on becoming a leading voice of the Arab world


Tweets from Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi were a major source of breaking news during the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring, earning him a place on Time magazine’s list of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011. He founded the Barjeel Art Foundation to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the region by providing a publicly accessible art collection in the UAE. He developed a public platform, through the foundation, to foster critical dialogue around contemporary art practices, with a focus on artists with Arab heritage. The foundation hosts in-house exhibitions and lends artwork to international forums. A writer, blogger and columnist on Arab affairs, with an international following, it is no surprise that he has a wide range of interests when it comes to reading.


An Apartment of Freedom

by Ghazi Al Gosaibi

This is a good book to help understand the transformation of Gulf society. It chronicles the lives of a number of Gulf students who moved to Cairo at a turbulent time of pan-Arab ideology that was spread during Gamal Abdel Nasser’s reign. It reflected a microcosm of Gulfisms but transported to a modern city in Cairo.


Catcher in the Rye

by J D Salinger

It reminds me of a time when I was rebelling in the 1990s. I had just completed my studies in Paris and was trying to hold on to vestiges of my youth, but I knew I had to transform to be able to adapt to life back in the UAE. It was a pivotal time in my life.


Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

This is a great metaphor for a lot of the political changes that have taken place around the world. In transitional states, where there is a vacuum in authority, groups try to rebuild and then a group comes to sabotage the situation.


For Bread Alone

by Mohamed Choukri

One of the greatest books and one that I am most emotionally attached to. It is one of the few Arabic books of the modern era that are taught in western universities. It is a great coming-of-age story that is unprecedented in the Arab world, especially in its use of language. It discusses topics that are normally taboo in the Middle East and it also celebrates the communal nature of taking care of orphans in the region.


Children of the Alley

by Naguib Mahfouz

This is a book that was banned [in the author’s home country of Egypt] and celebrated at the same time. It is an instant classic by a Nobel Prize for Literature winner and a must-read. The book is another metaphor that rose from stories of Abrahamic faiths, but grounds it through the experience of the family. It is the equivalent of 100 Years of Solitude [by Gabriel García Márquez] – there are so many parallels between the two books.

Updated: August 13, 2016 04:00 AM