UNESCO Director General Koïchiro Matsuura has awarded the 2008 Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture to Professor Gaber Asfour of Egypt and Portuguese writer Adalberto Alves, on the recommendation of an international jury that examined 33 candidates presented by 20 UNESCO Member States.
The Director General will present the Prize to the laureates in a ceremony at Organization Headquarters on November 17 (Room II, 6.30 p.m.).
UNESCO indicates that Dr. Gaber Asfour, a professor at several Arab, European, and American universities, is a former President of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Culture. Currently at the head of the National Translation Foundation in Cairo, “he plays a major role in the dissemination of Arab culture worldwide. His highly original literary criticism has gained international recognition. A champion of intercultural dialogue, he has promoted values such as women’s rights, respect for others, creative diversity, and tolerance.”
The writer, poet, and oriental scholar Adalberto Alves—born José Adalberto Coelho Alves—heads the Centro de Estudos Luso-Arabes of Silves (Portugal). “His work has inspired many Portuguese and Spanish writers and has contributed to the dissemination of the history of Arab culture of Portugal’s Moslem era (the Gharb al-Andalus),” states UNESCO. He is now working on a dictionary of Portuguese words of Arab origin. He headed the committee that lay the groundwork for the creation of the Fundação da Memória Arabe (Foundation of Arab Memory), was vice president of the Portuguese-Arab Cooperation Institute, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Portuguese Foundation of Arab-Islamic Heritage.
UNESCO also indicates that the Sharjah Prize—US$30,000 for each laureate funded by the government of the Emirate of Sharjah—was created at the initiative of Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohamed Al Qassimi and approved by the Executive Board of UNESCO in 1998. Its purpose is to reward persons, groups, or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the development, dissemination, and promotion of Arab culture throughout the world and to the safeguarding and revitalization of the Arab intangible cultural heritage.