Tuesday 22 March 2022: Cairo Maquette by Tarek Imam, Rose’s Diary by Reem al-Kamali, Dilshad by Bushra Khalfan, The Prisoner of the Portuguese by Mohsine Loukili, The White Line of Night by Khaled Nasrallah and Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad by Mohamed Alnaas have today been announced as the shortlisted works for the 15th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). Each of the six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000, with the winner announced on 22 May receiving an additional $50,000.

The shortlist was revealed online by this year’s Chair of Judges Shukri Mabkhout alongside Fleur Montanaro, the prize’s Administrator. They were then joined in a live press conference by Yasir Suleiman, Chair of Trustees.

The shortlisted authors for IPAF’s 15th edition range in age from 34 to 52 and represent six countries. Collectively, the writers address a range of important issues including identity, access to education, poverty, gender roles, fear, revenge and freedom of expression.

The shortlist was chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by Tunisian novelist, academic and previous IPAF winner (The Italian, 2015) Shukri Mabkhout. Joining him on the judging panel are Libyan doctor, poet and translator Ashur Etwebi, Lebanese writer and PEN International board member Iman Humaydan, Kuwaiti poet and critic Saadiah Mufarreh and Bulgarian academic and translator Baian Rayhanova.

All the authors on the 2022 shortlist have been shortlisted for the prize for the first time. Listed in alphabetical order by author surname, they are as follows:



Country of origin


Tarek Imam

Cairo Maquette



Reem al-Kamali

Rose's Diary


Dar al-Adab

Bushra Khalfan



Takween - Iraq

Mohsine Loukili

The Prisoner of the Portuguese


Dar Mim

Khaled Nasrallah

The White Line of Night


Dar Al Saqi

Mohamed Alnaas

Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad



Shukri Mabkhout, Chair of the 2022 Judges, commented in his speech: “The six novels represent a strikingly diverse range of topics and forms around identity and freedom. Some of them took us on a journey to the past, inspired by the aspirations and struggles of people living in various regions across the Arab world. They depicted the endeavours of marginalized, oppressed or forgotten individuals throughout history, as they sought to forge and change their destinies. Other novelists on this shortlist portrayed freedom from various angles, such as the freedom of imagination to reconstruct a reality in which fantasy and truth intertwine, the freedom of expression and creativity in the face of visible or hidden oppression, and the freedom of individual identity.”

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “This is a daring shortlist of works by writers who have come to the novel from different walks of life, cutting their teeth in various arenas of literary production before delving into extended fiction writing. Decorated by different literary patrons in the Arab world, our shortlistees have dared to probe topics that are frowned upon, adding more credence to the claim that the novel, in the Arab context, is a surrogate form of political and social expression. It would, however, be unfair to ignore the literary merits that captivate the reader in these novels, including the intertwining of multi-voiced narratives and the reimagining of time to express seamless continuity through fracture.”

The winner of the 15th International Prize for Arabic Fiction will be announced on 22 May 2022 at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi that will also be streamed online.


IPAF Shortlist 2022 — synopses and biographies


Tareq Imam is an Egyptian novelist and journalist, born in 1977. He is deputy chief editor of the Radio and Television magazine in Cairo. He began writing at a young age, publishing his first collection of short stories, New Birds Unspoiled by the Air, at the age of eighteen. He has published eleven books of novels and short stories, including The Calm of Killers (2007), The Second Life of Constantine Cavafis (2012), My Father’s Shrine (2013), The City of Endless Walls (2018) and The Taste of Sleep (2019). In 2010, he took part in the writers’ workshop (Nadwa) for talented young writers organized by IPAF. Some of his books have been translated and he has won numerous Egyptian, Arab and international prizes, such as the Egyptian State Incentive Award, the Sawiris Award (twice), the Egyptian Ministry of Culture Award (twice), the Kuwaiti Suad Al-Sabah Prize, and the Spanish Museum of Words (Museo de la Palabra) Prize. 

Cairo Maquette 

Cairo 1945, The “Cairo Work Gallery”, an independent gallery dedicated to marginalized arts, announces that it is offering a grant to build a small model (maquette) of Cairo as it was a quarter of a century ago, in the year 2020, when it was still the capital of Egypt. From this starting point, the novel explores the capital city at four points in its history: 2045, 2020, 2011 and an unknown time in the distant future, focusing in each period on a main protagonist who is an independent artist. There is Urija, passionate designer of maquettes of the city, who has suffered the stigma of being blamed for the death of his father since he was a child; Noud, a documentary film maker under police surveillance since coming out of prison two years before, where she had done time for offending public morals in her last film; Baliardo, a graffiti artist at the time of the January revolution, always on the run from the police for defacing the city walls; and Manga, the cartoonist who possesses two kinds of memories of the city. While the different time periods intersect, the location remains the same: the gallery. Cairo Maquette explores the relationship of the city with the individual, and in particular with the marginalized artist, searching for his identity, who is rejected by everyone, by state and society alike.



Reem al-Kamali is a novelist, writer and researcher from the UAE, born in 1972. She is an editor of the cultural section of the Emirati Al-Bayan newspaper. Her published works include the novels The Sultanate of Hormuz (2013), which was awarded the Owais Prize for Creativity in 2015, The Statue of Dalma (2018) winner of the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity, and Rose’s Diary (2021). In 2015, she took part in the writers’ workshop (Nadwa) for talented young writers organized by IPAF, where she worked on The Statue of Dalma. Reem al-Kamali studied history at university and is fascinated by archaeology, art, myths and culture in general.


Rose’s Diary


The events of Rose’s Diary take place in in the historic neighbourhood of Shindagha, Dubai, in the 1960s, before the foundation of the UAE. After the death of her mother, Rose’s uncle refuses to allow her to travel to Damascus to study Arabic literature with her secondary school classmates. Rose - a voracious reader who loves writing - pours out her anger in secret diaries containing stories and questions about life, drawing upon local history, society and ancient traditions. When each notebook is full, she throws it into a nearby river, so that no-one can read what she has written. 




Bushra Khalfan is an Omani short story writer and novelist, born in 1969. She has been writing short stories, novels and articles for a quarter of a century. From 2002 to 2011, she wrote a weekly article for the Omani “Al-Watan” and “Al-Ru’ya” newspapers, and she currently writes for the “Oman” paper. Her collection of open texts, Dust (2008), was awarded the Omani Writers’ Association Prize. From 2010 to 2012, she was head of the Literature and Creativity Committee at the Muscat Cultural Club. In 2014, she founded the Omani narrative laboratory and has run it since then. She has organized a number of creative writing workshops in Oman and the Gulf region, including “The Short Story: More is Less” (Kuwait, 2016), “The Short Story: From Idea to Text” (Sultan Qaboos University, 2017) and “How to Create a Three-Dimensional Character in a Fictional Work” (Kuwait, 2018). 




Dilshad is set in Muscat, the capital of Oman, in the first half of the twentieth century and the story is divided into three parts, each named after a district of the city. Dilshad, a young native of Muscat, of unknown parentage, grows up in extreme poverty in one of the Balochi areas of the city, experiencing Balochi as well as Arab culture. His daughter Mariam inherits his poverty and carefree nature, and she becomes everything to him, helping him cope with his blindness. However, their dire circumstances drive her to leave home and work in the house of a Muscat merchant, where she is initially content, but finally is forced to run away. Dilshad is a novel of hunger, sadness, adventure and love. Its multiple narrators speak different languages, pointing to the cultural diversity of Muscat.




Mohsine Loukili is a Moroccan writer, born in Taza, Morocco, 1978. He has won numerous prizes for plays, short stories and novels. He published his first short story collection Dawn of Rage in 2009, then his debut novel Winds of August (2013), which was awarded the 2013 Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity. His novel Rih al-Shirki (2016) was shortlisted for the Sheikh Zayyed Award, in the Young Author category, and his short story collection Lostness (2016) won the Ghassan Kanafani Prize for Narrative. 


The Prisoner of the Portuguese

The Prisoner of the Portuguese is the story of a simple man who leaves Fez and goes to the countryside looking for work, only to find himself a prisoner in a Portuguese jail on the North African coast, leaving behind a wife and three children. However, he bargains with his jailer, telling him stories to avoid the firing squad. He must tell a story which pleases the jailor or face execution. The novel thus follows in parallel the stories told by the prisoner and the main narrative. The novel illuminates a difficult period in the history of Morocco in the sixteenth century, torn by the struggle between the Saadis and the Marinids and the Portuguese occupation, while also exploring feelings of fear, expectation, love, hatred and the desire for revenge.



Khaled Nasrallah is a Kuwaiti writer and novelist, born in 1987. He obtained a BA in Physical Education and has worked as a teacher in the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education. He has published numerous articles in the Kuwaiti Al-Wasat and Al-Qabas newspapers. He won first place in the Short Stories on the Air competition organized by Al-Araby magazine and his novel The Highest Depth was longlisted for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in 2017. 


The White Line of Night


Since childhood, the main protagonist of The White Line of Night has been obsessed by reading. As a young child, he would search for words and forage for scraps of paper containing letters and expressions. When he leaves school to begin work, he gets a job as copy editor in the Department of Published Works. However, at work, he is often disturbed and pained when he has to ban a book. It annoys him to have to refuse books which he likes, so he ends up breaking the rules. In the novel’s atmosphere of political dystopia, the authorities are in conflict with the people. The hero plays an important role in dramatic events which build up to a climactic, shocking finale.




Mohamed Alnaas is a short story writer and journalist from Libya, born in 1991. He obtained a BA in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tripoli in 2014. His short story collection Blue Blood was published in 2020. Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad (2021) is his first novel.


Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad


In the closed society of his village, Milad strives to live up to the definition of ideal masculinity, as his society views it. However, after all his best efforts, he fails to be ‘a man’, and after meeting his sweetheart and wife-to-be, Zeinab, decides to forget about this definition and be himself. Living at home, he performs the tasks which his society reserves for women, while Zeinab works and supports the family. Milad is unaware of how he is mocked in the village until his nephew breaks it to him. Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad questions static ideas of gender and champions the individual in the face of destructive ideas adopted by the majority. 




IPAF Judging panel 2022 — biographies


Shukri Mabkhout is a critic, novelist and academic, born in Tunis in 1962. He holds a state doctorate in Arabic Language and Literature from Manouba University, Tunisia. He currently teaches at the Zayed University in the UAE and supervises its Endowed Chair of Arabic Language. In addition to several books of literary criticism and linguistics, he is the author of novels and short stories. His most well-known fictional work is The Italian, which won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2015 and has been translated into English and Italian. 


Ashur Etwebi is a doctor, poet, translator and painter. He was born in the old town of Tripoli, Libya, in 1952. As a young man, he also spent several years making traditional Libyan silver jewellery. He has worked as a consultant and a Professor of Internal Medicine in many teaching hospitals in Libya and was a co-founder of the National Cancer Institute, Sabratha, Libya. He has published 14 poetry collections, a novel and seven books of translation. Selections of his poetry have been published in English and French (two books in each language) and one book in Polish. 


Iman Humaydan is a Lebanese writer, researcher and academic. She is the co-founder and current President of PEN Lebanon, and a board member of PEN International. She has worked in the field of cultural journalism and published four novels: B as in Beirut, Wild Mulberries, Other Lives and The Weight of Paradise. These have been translated into many international languages; most recently, Armenian and Georgian. Her last novel, The Weight of Paradise, won the Katara Prize, and its French translation was shortlisted for the 2017 Prix de la littérature arabe awarded by the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Her writings tackle post-war and gender issues, memory, identity, language and migration. She aims to make women writers’ voices audible. Humaydan has also edited a collection of 15 short stories about Beirut entitled Beirut Noir, translated into English and published in 2015 by the New York publisher Akashic Books. She collaborated in writing the screenplay for the film “Here Comes the Rain”, which was based on her academic research on families of those who disappeared during the Lebanese civil war. The film won numerous Lebanese and international awards. Another screenplay, “Asmahan, Une Diva Orientale”, focused on the life of the Lebanese singer Asmahan. Between 2007 and 2014, she taught creative writing at the University of Iowa and since 2015, has taught creative writing at the Paris 8 University Saint Denis, France. She lives between Paris and Beirut.


Saadiah Mufarreh is a poet, critic, writer and cultural consultant from Kuwait. She is the author of over 20 books of poetry and literary criticism, and her poems have been translated into a number of languages. She was chosen by the British newspaper, The Guardian, to represent Kuwait on a global map of poetry, and the ‘Poets of the World’ movement also made her an ambassador of Kuwaiti poetry. She has been on the judging panels of several Kuwaiti and Arab prizes for Arabic literature, and has won Kuwaiti, Arab and international awards. Her writing is studied in universities in Kuwait and abroad, as part of Masters and Doctoral theses on modern Arabic literature. 


Baian Rayhanova is Professor of Arabic Literature at Sofia University, Bulgaria. She completed her higher education at the Moscow Institute for Oriental Studies, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and obtained a PhD in Modern Arabic Literature in the late 1980s. Since then, she has worked at Sofia University and has also been a guest lecturer at universities in Norway, the USA, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria and other countries. She is the author of several monographs, textbooks and articles on modern Arabic literature published in different languages and she has translated many works by contemporary Arab writers.

About the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and its work

An independent Board of Trustees, drawn from across the Arab world and beyond, is responsible for the overall management of the prize. Yasir Suleiman CBE, Professor of Arabic, University of Cambridge, is Chair of Trustees and Evelyn Smith, Booker Prize Foundation, is a Trustee and Company Secretary. The remaining Trustees are, in alphabetical order: Isobel Abulhoul OBE, CEO & Trustee, Emirates Literature Foundation; Yassin Adnan, Moroccan journalist, broadcaster and writer; Abdulla Majed Al Ali, executive director of the UAE national archive, columnist, formerly involved in a number of cultural initiatives in the UAE, including the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, the Kalima Translation Project, the Abu Dhabi Book Fair and Abu Dhabi libraries; Nujoom Alghanem, poet, script writer and a multi-award-winning Emirati filmmaker; Rasheed El-Enany, Professor Emeritus of the University of Exeter; Omar Ghobash, author, businessman, and diplomat, currently serving the United Arab Emirates as Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy; Michel S. Moushabeck, Founder and President of Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., writer, editor, and musician, USA; Zaki Nusseibeh, Cultural Advisor to the President and Chancellor of the UAE University; Sherif-Joseph Rizk, Director of publishing house Dar al-Tanweer, Egypt; Ahdaf Soueif, author and political and cultural commentator; and Jonathan Taylor, former chair of the Booker Prize Foundation. The prize’s Administrator is Fleur Montanaro.

In fulfilling its ambition to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction, the prize provides funding for English translation for its winners. Winning novels published in English include Hoda Barakat’s The Night Mail (translated as Voices of the Lost, Oneworld); Rabai al-Madhoun’s Fractured Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and Al Nakba (Hoopoe); Shukri Mabkhout’s The Italian (Europa Editions); Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad (Oneworld, UK, and Penguin Books, US); Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk; Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly; Raja Alem’s The Dove’s Necklace (Duckworth, UK, and Overlook Press, US); Abdo Khal’s Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles; Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel (Atlantic Books); and Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis (Sceptre).

2021 saw the publication into English of several novels recognised by the prize, including Sarajevo Firewood by Said Khatibi (shortlisted 2020), translated by Paul Starkey and published by Banipal Books; Aziz Mohammed’s The Critical Case of “K” (shortlisted 2018) translated by Humphrey Davies and published by Hoopoe; All the Women Inside Me by Jana Elhassan (shortlisted 2013 as Me, She and the Other Women) and Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli (shortlisted 2019), both translated by Michelle Hartman and published by Interlink Books (USA); Hot Maroc by Yassin Adnan (longlisted 2017), translated by Alexander E. Elinson and published by Syracuse University Press; The Book Smuggler by Omaima Al-Khamis (longlisted as Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate in 2019), translated by Sarah Enany and published by Hoopoe. Sarah Enany’s translation of Rasha Adly’s 2018-longlisted novel Passion (translated as The Girl with Braided Hair) was announced as the winner of the 2021 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. 

2022 will see the publication in English of Jalal Barjas’ Notebooks of the Bookseller (winner of the 2021 prize) and The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy (shortlisted 2020), both by Interlink. Douaihy’s 2012-shortlisted novel The Vagrant will also be published by Seagull. Other titles include two shortlisted books from 2021, The Calamity of the Nobility by Amira Ghenim (Europa Editions) and The Bird Tattoo by Dunya Mikhail (US publisher Pegasus). Interlink has acquired the English-language rights for Tashari by Inaam Kachachi (shortlisted 2014), while Gallimard has secured French rights for Kachachi’s 2019-shortlisted novel The Outcast

In addition to the annual prize, IPAF supports literary initiatives including its Nadwa (writers’ workshop) for emerging writers from across the Arab world. Established in 2009, the Nadwa was the first of its kind for Arab writers. Each Nadwa results in new fiction by some of the Arab world’s most promising authors, some of whom have gone on to have works entered, be shortlisted and even win the Prize. Nine Nadwas have taken place in Abu Dhabi (eight under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and in 2017 supported by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation). Others have been held in Jordan, Oman and Sharjah, in partnership with, respectively, the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, the Muscat Cultural Club and the Department of Culture — Sharjah Government.

  • The previous winners of the prize are:

    2008: Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher (Egypt)

    2009: Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan (Egypt)

    2010: Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles by Abdo Khal (Saudi Arabia)

    2011: The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari (Morocco) and The Doves' Necklace by Raja Alem (Saudi Arabia)

    2012: The Druze of Belgrade by Rabee Jaber (Lebanon)

    2013: The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi (Kuwait)

    2014: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq)

    2015: The Italian by Shukri Mabkhout (Tunisia)

    2016: Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba by Rabai al-Madhoun (Palestine)

    2017: A Small Death by Mohammed Hasan Alwan (Saudi Arabia)

    2018: The Second War of the Dog by Ibrahim Nasrallah (Palestine)

    2019: The Night Mail by Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)

    2020: The Spartan Court by Abdelouahab Aissaoui (Algeria)

    2021: Notebooks of the Bookseller by Jalal Barjas (Jordan)

    The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, and was originally mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

    About the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre

    The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, established under a directive from HH the UAE President, as part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, works to support Arabic language development and modernisation through comprehensive strategies and frameworks, enrich the scientific, educational, cultural and creative contributions of the Arabic language, promote Arabic language proficiency and cultural understanding, and support Arab talents in the fields of writing, translation, publishing, scientific research, arts, content creation, and organizing book fairs. The Centre works to realise its foundational vision through dedicated programmes, human expertise, and meaningful partnerships with the world’s most prestigious technical, cultural and academic institutions.

    The prize is also supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.


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