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Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding

The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize, worth £25,000, is awarded annually for outstanding contribution to global cultural understanding. It is designed to illuminate the interconnections and divisions of culture and identity in world civilization. The award was founded by the international relations scholar Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan in 2013.

Worth £25,000, the prize is awarded annually for an outstanding contribution to global cultural understanding that illuminates the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide. The prize was founded and is generously sponsored by the international relations scholar Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan. It was first awarded in 2013.

To be eligible for entry, books had to be be works of non-fiction published in English in the two years since 1 March 2016. The jury looked for books that are rigorous and evidence-based, that demonstrated original research and that can have significantly contributed to public understanding and debate. Authors may be of any nationality, based anywhere in the world and working in any language provided that the nominated work is available in the English language.  

2018 winner

The winner of the 2018 prize was Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (UK/Bulgaria, Granta Books)

Bouquet of flowers at the Al Rodhan Prize ceremony 2018

When Kapka Kassabova was a child, the borderzone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece was rumoured to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall so it swarmed with soldiers, spies and fugitives. On holidays close to the border on the Black Sea coast, she remembers playing on the beach, only miles from where an electrified fence bristled, its barbs pointing inwards toward the enemy: the holiday-makers, the potential escapees.

Today, this densely forested landscape is no longer heavily militarised, but it is scarred by its past. In Border, Kapka Kassabova sets out on a journey to meet the people of this triple border - Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, and the latest wave of refugees fleeing conflict further afield. She discovers a region that has been shaped by the successive forces of history: by its own past migration crises, by communism, by two World wars, by the Ottoman Empire, and - older still - by the ancient legacy of myths and legends. As Kapka Kassabova explores this enigmatic region in the company of border guards and treasure hunters, entrepreneurs and botanists, psychic healers and ritual fire-walkers, refugees and smugglers, she traces the physical and psychological borders that criss-cross its villages and mountains, and goes in search of the stories that will unlock its secrets.

Border is a sharply observed portrait of a little-known corner of Europe, and a fascinating meditation on the borderlines that exist between countries, between cultures, between people, and within each of us. Read an extract from Border. 

Kapka Kassabova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, university educated in New Zealand, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. She is a poet and the author of the acclaimed memoirs Street Without a Name (2008) and Twelve Minutes of Love (2011). She has written for the Sunday Times, the Guardian, Vogue, and 1843 magazine. Border won the Saltire and Stanford-Dolman Book of the Year, the Highland Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the Baillie-Gifford, Ondaatje, Duff Cooper, Bread and Roses and Gordon Burn Prizes, and the American National Circle of Critics Award.

2018 shortlist 

The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason by Christopher de Bellaigue (UK, The Bodley Head) 

Read an extract from The Islamic Enlightenment

Al-Britannia: A Journey Through Muslim Britain by James Fergusson (UK, Bantam Press)

Read an extract from Al-Britannia.

Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann (UK, Oneworld)  

Read an extract from Black Tudors.

I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet (Germany, Virago)

Read an extract from I Was Told To Come Alone

Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Dame Anne Salmond (New Zealand, Auckland University Press)

Read an extract from Tears of Rangi.

Previous winners

Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World

Timothy Garton Ash CMG FRSA, University of Oxford, for Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World (Atlantic Books, 2016)


Islam; A New Historical Introduction

Professor Carole Hillenbrand OBE FBA, St Andrews and Edinburgh Universities, for Islam; A New Historical Introduction (Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2015)


A History of the World in 100 Objects2015
Neil MacGregor Hon FBA, British Museum, for  A History of the World in 100 Objects (Penguin, 2012) and Germany: Memories of a Nation (Allen Lane, 2014)


Knowledge in the Blood: confronting race and the apartheid past 2014
Jonathan Jansen
, University of the Free State, South Africa, for Knowledge in the Blood: confronting race and the apartheid past (Stanford University Press, 2009)


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