Emirati media titan Habib Al Sayegh passes away - GulfToday

Emirati media titan Habib Al Sayegh passes away


Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid with Habib Yousuf Abdullah Al Sayegh. File/WAM

Yamama Badwan, Staff Reporter

Habib Yousuf Abdullah Al Sayegh, a renowned Emirati poet, author and intellectual, died on Tuesday. He was 64.

Al Sayegh, who served as Editor-in-Chief of Al Khaleej newspaper, Chairman of the Emirates Writers Union and Secretary General of the Arab Writers Union, left behind a treasure of articles, literary publications and poems that were translated into English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese.

Serving journalism and culture for more than 46 years until he became the most famous intellectual in the UAE, Al Sayegh gave the UAE a new face with many dimensions in such fields as culture, poetry, journalism, translation, research and heritage, rendering the country at the heart of the cultural event industry.

Al Sayegh’s funeral will be held at 10.30am on Wednesday in Al Baharna Grand Funeral Area in Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi where the funeral prayer will be held. He will be buried in Al Bateen Graveyard.

Sultan-Habib-Abdullah Sheikh Sultan honours Habib Al Sayegh at an event as Dr Abdullah Taryam looks on. File/ WAM

The family of the deceased as well as his relatives and loved ones will receive condolences in the Azaa tent held near the late Ali Mohammed Al Sayegh in Abu Dhabi for men and in the late Ali Mohammed Al Sayegh’s house for women for three days from 4.30pm on Wednesday till Friday.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, mourned Al Sayegh and his family. Sheikh Mohammed tweeted, “The United Arab Emirates lost one of the pillars of media, press and literature. May Allah the Almighty have mercy on him. Homelands will be a witness to such characters. May Allah inspire his family patience and solace.”

Dr Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State, Chairman of the National Media Council, affirmed the UAE and Arab media have lost a fellow poet and writer Habib Al Sayegh who passed away on Tuesday.
He tweeted, “Media lost an Arab world journalist and writer, Habib Al Sayegh, who left a strong imprint and many generations in the field of journalism, thought, poetry and literature were his disciples.”

Sheikh Dr Rashid Bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Chairman of Fujairah Culture and Media Authority, mourned the poet and writer Habib Al Sayegh.
He stressed that with Sayegh’s departure, the cultural and literary scene lost a bold and creative pen which cared about the issues of human society.
Sharqi explained the Arab cultural and media community was saddened by the departure of Al Sayegh.

Al Sayegh was born in Abu Dhabi in 1955 and began to write poetry and prose about the homeland and its issues at an early stage. He used to publish what he wrote in the press when he was a student at Jaber Bin Hayyan High School in Abu Dhabi. His writings rendered him so famous that the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan  did not hesitate to select him to work as editor in the Al Ittihad newspaper, which was established in 1973 on a monthly salary of Dhs3,000. Al Sayegh received his Bachelor of Philosophy in 1977 and completed his Master of Comparative Linguistics from the University of London in 1998. He later worked in journalism and culture and chaired the Emirates Writers Union.

Habib-Sayegh Habib Al Sayegh. File

Al Sayegh was one of the most famous Arab poets and authors because his writings were published in the Arab world at an early time and participated in dozens of Arab and global conferences and seminars. He also played a pivotal role in the cultural movement in the UAE and had a strong presence in many cultural activities, which he used to supervise through the many posts he took up.

Al Sayegh received a number of local, Arab and international awards and honours, including the Taryam Omran Prize (Journalism Pioneers category) in 2004. He was also honoured by the Journalists Association in 2006 as the first to spend 35 years in the national press field.
In 2012, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, honoured Al Sayegh by selecting him as the Cultural Personality of the Year at the Sharjah International Book Fair.
In 2016, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, honoured him at the First UAE Forum for being the first Emirati to be the Secretary General of the Arab Writers Union.
In January 2019, he was honoured by the New Delhi International Book Fair, in which he participated as member of the Sharjah delegation, at the behest of the Honorary President of the UAE Writers Union on the basis of an assignment by His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi.

Al Sayegh held many positions throughout his literary and media career, both in the UAE and the Arab states. He was elected president of the Executive Committee of the Arab Creativity Translation project in 2013, the Editor-in-Chief of the Arab Writer Magazine issued by the General Union, since December 2015 until his demise. He was also Chairman of the Emirates Writers Union from 2009 until he passed away.

Other previous positions included Editor-in-Chief of “Literary Affairs” published by the Emirates Writers Union, for the issues from 58 to 62 and from 71 to 72, Director of Internal Media at the Ministry of Information and Culture in 1977, and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Al Ittihad newspaper in 1978.

 He founded and became the editor of Awraq Cultural Magazine from 1982 to 1995. He also served as Chairman of the National Committee for Ethical Journalism in the UAE, Vice Chairman of Emiratisation and Human Resources Development in the state media sector, Director General of the Sultan Bin Zayed Centre for Culture and Media, and Board Member of Emirates Heritage Club. He was also Chairman of the Committee on Information and Public Relations at the Club, as well as General Supervisor of the Club’s monthly “Torath” Magazine. He was also the Chair of the Abu Dhabi Theatre Administration Authority, the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Poetry House, and Head of the UAE delegation to the Civil Society Forum for the Future.

The late Habib Al Sayegh was an associate press writer in the UAE since its inception. He edited the first page for promising writers in the UAE press (Al Ittihad newspaper – Pen Club – 1978) and founded the first cultural supplement in the UAE (Al Fajr newspaper – 1980).

Al Sayegh had been writing since the late 1960s, with publications including his collections Poems to Beirut (1980), Tomorrow (1995) and 2012’s simply titled Collection of Poems.

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