Acclaimed Emirati author and member of the UAE ruling family, Her Highness Sheikha Salama Bint Hazza Al Nahyan talks to Education UAE about her books, favourite authors, and encouraging children to write their own stories.
Education UAE: Education is clearly a major passion; how and why has this developed?
Sheikha Salama: Education is everyone’s right and it’s a foundation in life. As a writer, you’re always learning random new things to explain something or to write a certain scene or moment in time. If you’re going to do anything in life, education will always be a foundation to what you wish to achieve.
EDUAE: You have published five novels, which is your favourite and why?
SS: The Well of Mysteries is my favourite. It’s a book I would pick up and read if I was younger. I tried to write something a younger me would enjoy. I love books filled with mysteries and imagination.
I think that it’s important to empower kids at a young age through stories where it’s natural to have a female hero
EDUAE: Have you challenged any perspectives or beliefs with this book?
SS: In this book, I tried to focus on a female hero; in children’s books we need more female role models especially for kids. I think that it’s important to empower kids at a young age through stories where it’s natural to have a female hero. We could find plenty of books where the norm is to have a male hero and that limits beliefs, especially for young girls. It shapes their mentality at a young age and limits them tomorrow. We all have something special in us; our environment either helps us find it or confines it.
EDUAE: It is important to encourage children to read, but there are also some good young writers out there – what advice would you give to those who want to try writing a book themselves?
SS: Find what inspires you. What genres do you like reading? When you know what you like, write it and play around with ideas. Don’t be afraid of expressing yourself in a story and don’t seek perfection. There’s no perfection in art, just challenge yourself and better yourself every day. Most importantly, enjoy what you do and don’t take it too seriously, don’t be too hard on yourself and your work.
Right now my favourite authors are Don Miguel Ruiz and Andrea Camilleri
EDUAE: Are there any books or authors that inspired you to start writing? Do you have a favourite author?
SS: Till this day I question myself, why did I start writing? Did someone specific inspire me? I don’t have an answer to that. I always enjoyed stories whether it’s in books or on-screen and at a certain age I experimented just for fun with a story and then planned to print it. I never decided beforehand that I’d be a writer one day. Right now my favourite authors are Don Miguel Ruiz and Andrea Camilleri.
EDUAE: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
SS: I’m not very picky with my writing space. I’m still experimenting with my writing space; for me, it changes all the time. I just need that mental energy to focus and I can’t write in loud places. I need to hear my thoughts and catch ideas as soon as they come before I forget them.