2019 King Faisal International Prize Award Ceremony

The 2019 King Faisal International Prize Award Ceremony took place on Sunday the 24 March 2019 (17 Rajab 1440), under the auspices of the His Majesty Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. The present author had the privilege to attend this Royal Ceremony (https://kingfaisalprize.org/ceremonies/).  Here are some details worth noting.

The King Faisal International Prizes are named after the third king of Saudi Arabia. In the year 1976, the sons of late King Faisal (1906-1975) established a large-scale philanthropic organization based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and named it as King Faisal Foundation (KFF, http://www.kff.com/).

One of the numerous activities of the KFF is the King Faisal International Prize in five categories (KFIP, http://kingfaisalprize.org/), to honour scholars and scientists, who have made the most significant advances to benefit humanity and enrich human knowledge.

The prize consists of a certificate, hand-written in Diwani calligraphy, summarizing the laureate’s work, a commemorative 24 carat, 200-gram gold medal, uniquely cast for each Prize; and a cash endowment of Saudi Riyal 750,000 (about US$200,000) to be shared equally.

This year the prize recipients are:

  1. Service to Islam: International University of Africa, located in Khartoum the capital of Sudan (https://en.iua.edu.sd/).
  2. Islamic Studies (Topic: Studies on the Objectives of Islamic Law): withheld due to the lack of sufficiently meritorious nominations.
  3. Arabic Language and Literature (Topic: Arabic Language and Contemporary Challenges): Abdelali Mohamed Oudrhiri of Morocco and Mahmoud Fahmy Hegazi of Egypt.
  4. Medicine (Topic: Bone Biology and Osteoporosis): Steven L. Teitelbaum and BjørnReino Olsen (both are citizens of USA).
  5. Science(Field of Chemistry): Allen Joseph Bard and Jean M.J. Fréchet (both are citizens of USA).

The Awards Ceremony took place in the Prince Sultan Grand Hall of Al-Faisaliah Hotel, which is in the Al-Faisaliah Complex (http://www.alfaisaliahhotels.com/) in the capital Riyadh, housing the King Faisal Foundation, the Hotel and several other entities.

The recipients and the guest were all accommodated in the luxurious Al-Faisaliah Hotel. Each year the recipients give public lectures at a number of Riyadh’s institutes and universities, including the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, and the King Faisal Foundation.

The glittering Awards Ceremony was organized by the King Faisal Foundation. It was attended by foreign ambassadors, members of the Saudi royal family, and senior government officials. The awards were given by His Majesty Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

The King was accompanied by Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud, the third son of King Faisal. He is the Managing Director of the King Faisal Foundation and also the Governor of the holy city of Makkah Mukarramah. Prince Khalid has been announcing the winners of the King Faisal International Prize for the last several years.

The programme started by the recitation of the Holy Qur’an [Surah Al-Nour (The Light), 24: 35-38] followed by a brief poetic speech by Prince Khalid. The Laureates were presented by Dr. Abdulaziz Alsebail, the Secretary-General of the King Faisal International Prize. The sequence for each recipient was the handing over the award and poses for photographs, followed by a brief pre-made video on the recipient (and recipient’s work) and then a short speech by the recipient. This sequence was repeated for each recipient. In the end, King Salman congratulated the winners on receiving their awards. The function concluded with a seven-course dinner with the choicest recipes.

Among this year’s recipients, the Chemistry Laureate, Prof.Fréchet is most acquainted with Saudi Arabia. He is at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), since 2010, where he is Senior Vice President of Research, Innovation & Economic Development. He has trained hundreds of researchers at KAUST, and described his stay in the Kingdom as a true highlight of his scientific career. Based on his nine years’ experience in the Kingdom, he made the apt remarks, which we quote:

“I have been able to both witness and contribute to the development of a first-rate Saudi research institution that rivals the best in the world. I am confident that KAUST will prove to be an enormous asset for the Kingdom rekindling the traditional scientific excellence with Islamic Lands and contributing to economic development and diversification of this great kingdom.”

The author is grateful to various publishers, which have been kindly publishing his articles on the King Faisal International Prizes for more than a decade. The long list of these publications fetched him the invitation to attend the Royal Awards Ceremony.

The author is thankful to the organizers for their kind invitation to him with family, for taking care of the flight tickets, visas and the very warm local hospitality. The present author also had the privilege to attend the 2017 UNESCO Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation during the World Science Forum (Dead Sea, Jordan, 7-11 November 2017, https://2017.worldscienceforum.org/).

The author is an Asst. Professor at Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman.