Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Sudanese teen named Arab Reading Challenge champion in Dubai

Hadeel Anwar says her success is 'life-changing' after scooping the Dh500,000 top prize

A teenage girl from Sudan said her life was changed forever after she beat competition from more than 13 million learners across the globe to be named the Arab Reading Challenge champion.

Hadeel Anwar spoke of her "pride and honour" and thanked her family for being her inspiration after securing the Dh500,000 top prize from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, at the Dubai Opera House on Wednesday.

The tears began to flow as an overjoyed Hadeel absorbed the announcement. Sheikh Mohammed was quick to offer a comforting arm on her shoulder, also to commend her achievement.

This is a life-changing moment

Hadeel Anwar

The 7th grade pupil said she hoped to carve out a career as a doctor and use her love of literature to pen books that have a positive impact on society.

“This is a life-changing moment,” said Hadeel, before an audience of thousands.

"Being part of the Arab Reading Challenge brings me great pride and honour.

"It has taken a lot of persistence and willpower to be chosen out of 13.5 million pupils.

"My aim was to challenge myself through managing my time and controlling my thoughts. I wanted to grow my knowledge, linguistic and communication skills.”

While she likes to swim and paint, she has a passion for prose.

Hadeel has lofty plans to encourage others in her homeland to share in her love of reading.

“I will start a children’s library in Khartoum to encourage reading among youngsters because I believe reading will help build up our country again.”

Her favourite author is a compatriot, the late Tayeb Salih, while her most beloved books include The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.

Hadeel, whose role model is the revolutionary former South African President Nelson Mandela, dreams of pursuing her academic studies in Britain.

The Arab Reading Challenge was launched by Sheikh Mohammed in 2015 to encourage a million young people to read 50 books in a year.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, declares Haneel Anwar, from Sudan, the winner of the Arab Reading Challenge. Wam
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, declares Haneel Anwar, from Sudan, the winner of the Arab Reading Challenge. Wam

The literary initiative is open to anyone in the Mena region, as well as Arabs living abroad, who are aged between eight and 18. Pupils are tested on their understanding of the texts during the contest.

The annual competition has proven a major success story, with a rapidly growing number of people taking part each year.

A record number of 13.5 million readers from 49 countries signed up for the challenge this year.

Ahead of the finals, Sheikh Mohammed spoke of the importance of young people across the Arab world expanding their knowledge,

“We celebrate more than 13 million students in the Arab Reading Challenge, the largest Arab knowledge initiative," he said.

"We are stronger with Arab youth who believe in the power of words.”

Five finalists were vying for victory in the finals of the competition – Jumana Al Malki of Saudi Arabia, Moroccan Fatima Al Zahra Akhyar, Aya Boutreea from Tunisia and Abdulaziz Al Khaldi from Kuwait – alongside the eventual winner, Hadeel.

The contenders were quizzed on their literary knowledge by a panel of judges before the live audience, who also cast votes to help pick the champion.

Updated: November 13, 2019 06:41 PM

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