Arab Reading Challenge semi-finals takes a TV show spin

Dubai, September 18, 2019—For the first time since the inception of the Arab Reading Challenge (ARC), audiences across the Arab world will get a peek on the semi-finals in a journey documented through an entertaining TV show.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) announced on Wednesday that 16 young semi-finalists, selected among 13.5 million participants of the ARC’s 4th edition, will be seen in a close interaction with a notable panel of judges as they undergo a rigorous evaluation process to qualify for the finals and compete for the grand title: the Arab Reading Champion.

The 8-week Arab Reading Challenge TV Show, set to be broadcasted on MBC Channel starting Friday, September 27, will document the daily journey of 16 contestants from 14 countries for the first time through a series of edutainment challenges and competitions that assess their choice of books, comprehension of texts they read throughout the academic year, analytical and problem-solving skills, confidence and ability to communicate accurately in Arabic.

Details of the first-of-its-kind show, filmed in a reality TV format, were unveiled during a press briefing and tour at the “Arab Reading Challenge House” in Dubai, a location specifically designed to film the engaging and entertaining evaluation stages that will narrow down contestants to five finalists. The show’s final episode will broadcast live the final award ceremony, which will declare the Arab Reading Champion at Dubai Opera in November.

Edutainment TV show

The weekly show will provide a closer behind-the-scenes look on the evaluation stages of the young semi-finalists in a new innovative style that engages audiences across the Arab world.

Viewers will get the opportunity to follow the performance and progress of 16 national winners selected across the Arab world through the semi-finals round. The contestants will also take part in different educational activities and workshops to enrich their reading habits and encourage them to take up their pursuit of knowledge as a lifestyle.

Standing ahead of a panel of judges comprised of notable literary figures in the Arab world, the young contestants will be tested on the diversity of books selected and their ability to communicate their ideas and apply gained knowledge on real grounds.

Besides presenting an entertaining and innovative competition, the TV show aims to highlight young readers, showcasing their determination and persistence as they bear the fruits of their year-long efforts.  

Broadcasting a TV show aims to demonstrate the impact of the ARC in developing the young minds through instilling the culture of reading in future generations who will be the leaders of tomorrow.

Saeed Al Eter, assistant secretary-general of MBRGI, said, “In four years, the Arab Reading Challenge has transformed into a widespread reading phenomenon. We wanted to invite the Arab public to join their children in every step of the journey towards the winner’s announcement in a first-of-its-kind television show that presents a unique edutainment experience.”

He added that the show provides an added value to Arabic television through bringing forward young readers often seen delving into their books behind closed doors with no recognition. “They do not carry the traditional sense of stardom, but they are our real heroes. The Arab Reading Challenge presents them to the Arab world with immense pride.”

The show, he noted, aims to transform the challenge into a journey that promotes healthy competition and inspires the Arab youth, wherever they are, to join the widespread Arab literacy initiative.

Muna Al Kindi, secretary general of the ARC, said, “Over eight weeks, millions of Arab viewers will experience moments of joy, pride and tears as they watch models of the future generations take part in the Arab world’s largest-ever literacy initiative.”

Ali Jaber, General Director of MBC TV Group, noted, “The MBC Group’s vision goes in line with MBRGI’s vision to spread hope and bring a positive change across the Arab world through adopting different knowledge, cultural and humanitarian projects and initiatives.”

Jaber added that the TV show, first of its kind, is the outcome of the continuing partnership between both entities.

He noted that the pre-recorded episodes will showcase 16 semi-finalists undergoing different elimination stages that narrow them down to five finalists, leading up to the winner’s announcement in the final award ceremony that will be broadcasted live on the show’s 8th episode on MBC channels.

The show will air every Friday at 9 p.m. UAE timing, starting from September 27, on MBC Channel.

Jaber said the show’s format is designed by the international company Fremantle, the creators of the widely-acclaimed talent shows including “The X Factor,” and “Arabs Got Talent.”

 “We are positive that the show will leave a positive impact in every Arab house as it delivers knowledge in a whole new form, using the latest film and production technologies.”

Selection criteria

The judging panel was keen to adopt an accurate selection criterion that assesses knowledge and personality of contestants. The panel evaluates contestants based on their comprehension of texts, articulation of the Arabic language, teamwork spirit, critical thinking, analytical skills and creative expression.


The press briefing included a tour around the “Arab Reading Challenge House” where the show is filmed. MBRGI announced Shahed Ballan, TV host and MBC, to be the Arab Reading Challenge Show’s presenter.

TV show goals

The show aims to celebrate inspiring young Arab readers and highlight their success stories in an edutainment format.  

Through showcasing the persistence that distinguished the contestants across the Arab world and brought them to the semi-finals, the TV show aims to encourage Arab youth to follow suit and take up reading as a lifestyle, while preserving their language.


It also demonstrates the positive impact of reading in shaping young personalities across the Arab world, raising awareness of the importance of reading among Arab students in the region and the world.

Through the show, audiences will gain a better insight of the evaluation and selection process of contestants in the largest-ever Arab literacy initiative that leads to the announcement of the winner who will take home Dh500,000 in prize money, as part of Dh11 million worth of cash prizes.

The 16 semi-finalists

The show will feature the 16 national winners, selected across the Arab world, to represent their countries in the Arab Reading Challenge:

Mezna Najeeb (UAE)

Umm Nasri Mamin (Mauritania)

Aya Noureddine (Tunisia)

Naima Kabir (Algeria)

Hadeel Anwar Al Zoubir (Sudan)

Shaimaa Qahtan Ahmed Kazakzeh (Jordan)

Fahad Shuja Al Habout (Saudi Arabia)

 Jumana Saeed Al-Malki (Saudi Arabia)

Fatima Al Zahra Akhyar (Morocco)

Raneem Samir Hamouda (Egypt)

Shaima Ali Basyouni from Al-Azhar Al-Sharif (Egypt)

Abdulaziz Al Khaldi (Kuwait)

Samia bint Sami Al Mafrajieh (Oman)

Omar Al Ma’aita (Palestine)

Bushra Abdulmajeed Assiri (Bahrain)

Lubna Jamal Nasser (Lebanon)

The Arab Reading Challenge

Since its launch in 2015, the Arab Reading Challenge has attracted over 33 million Arab students. The 4th edition of the challenge attracted over 13.5 million students and 113,000 supervisors from 62,000 schools spanning 49 countries across the world.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Arab Reading Challenge in 2015 to encourage the young generation to read and raise the status of the Arabic language. The largest-ever Arab literacy initiative aims to build a generation of knowledge, innovation and excellence in all fields, empower the Arab youth with knowledge and promote a culture of dialogue and coexistence through reading.

While the challenge attracted 3.5 million students in its first edition, it saw double the participation in the second year with over 7.4 million students. Last year, over 10.5 million students from 44 countries participated after the competition opened the doors to Arab students living in foreign countries for the first time.