Wednesday, November 29
11:35 PM

17th Let’s Read Children’s Writing Competition winners 2023 announced

24 May 2023

Little Miss Oman by Fiadh Donnelly won the first prize in the 8-10 years category

Little Miss Oman was, as you can imagine, very good on the subject of Oman. In fact, she was absolutely brilliant on it. All the school children in Muscat came to her when they needed the answer to a question about Oman.

Little Miss Oman lived a very happy life with the children coming to visit her and ask questions about the beautiful country she lived in.  However, there was one thing she had wanted to do for years…

Every year, on 8th April, the Sultan judged a competition, a competition about who had the most knowledge about a particular country of his choice.

Little Miss Oman had always wanted to win the competition and this year, Little Miss Oman gave a jump of excitement – this year the Sultan had decided that Oman would be the country! And who knew more about Oman than Little Miss Oman!

Nobody in Oman was better on the subject of Oman than Little Miss Oman except… Mr World. Mr World had won every single contest since it had existed. Everybody in Oman knew he was a cheat. He got all his knowledge from his crystal ball.

Little Miss Oman squared her jaw. She, Little Miss Oman, was going to show Mr World, Sneaky Cheater, Slimy Snake, that she could win!

The day of the competition dawned. Little Miss Oman had been awake all night making sure she knew everything there was to know about Oman. She got up and went to the Royal Opera House, where Mr World was waiting.

“Welcome to our annual competition,” cried the Sultan.  “This year’s competitors are Little Miss Oman and Mr World; at last Mr World has someone brave enough to challenge him. Let the competition begin!”

The Sultan waved his hand for silence and boomed, “Mr World, what is the name of the world’s largest caves, found in Oman?” Mr World s-l-o-w-l-y stepped forward.  Tensely, the audience waited.  Mr World cleared his throat, a smug smile flickering around the edges of his mouth.

“The answer, Mr Sultan, Sir,” he simpered, “is Maglis al Jinn”

“Correct,” boomed the Sultan, in a voice even louder than before. “Now, Little Miss Oman, how many Baiza are in a rial?”

Cautiously Little Miss Oman stepped forward.  The crowd descended into a hush once more as Little Miss Oman replied, “The answer is… I mean… I think it is… 1000 Baiza makes up 1 rial.”

“Again, correct!” cried the Sultan as people in the crowd cheered for Little Miss Oman.

“And now for the third question,” declared the Sultan once the cheering had subsided.

“Mr World, describe to me, the Omani flag, perfectly.” Frantically, Mr World searched his memory. “The Omani flag has one red vertical stripe and three horizontal stripes to the right; the first white, the second red and the third green.”

“Wrong!” exclaimed the Sultan.  He turned to Little Miss Oman. She furrowed her brow. She was sure Mr World was correct. Suddenly, it dawned on her. “Oh Mr Sultan,” she cried. “Mr World WAS correct except for one tiny detail. At the top of the vertical stripe, there is a white khanjar.” Mr World glowered at her.

“Correct!” cried the Sultan delightedly. “For the first time in 20 years, someone other than Mr World has won the cup! Little Miss Oman is the winner!”

Little Miss Oman went home that night in a state of exhaustion and pride. She had achieved her highest ambition and shown that she could achieve anything she put her mind to. She went to bed that night with a smile on her face.

Omani story by Zayan Shaikh won the first prize in the 11-14 years category

Zara rode at the back of the bedouin group. The sky was becoming darker and darker as they rode on, and the moon shone with a dazzling splendor. The wind blew lightly on her face. She faintly made out the outline of the magnificent Al Hajar mountains in the distance, and marveled at the fact that they looked so large, even though she knew that they were so far away. The dunes all around her were huge, and she felt insignificant as she followed the trail. She heard the cries of nearby foxes and vultures and once, she thought she glimpsed an owl, hovering far above in the sky, presumably scanning the terrain for prey. 

They stopped and set up tents. Zara helped milk the cows with her tutor, Y’irras. Her mother was busy preparing food, and her father sat with the men and ate dates, talking about recent happenings. 

“Zara!”, her mother called. “Tell everyone that the food is ready.”

Zara immediately set about telling the men that the food was ready. They got up and left to eat. Her father gave her a date which she ate gratefully. She then told J’uqhal, the tribe leader, that food would be brought to him soon, as he preferred to eat alone. She was a bit afraid of him, and the Khanjar he always wore didn’t help her get over her fear. Perhaps he knew that, she thought, as he patted her head and told her to get some food for herself too.

 She wondered what there was to eat, even as a delicious smell told her the answer to her own question. It was Majboos!, she thought happily, and ran over. She loved Majboos. While eating, she talked with Y’irras, who told her to come to the makeshift horse shed after eating. She then played a game of Al Mizrarah with Arya, one of her friends. She picked a green unripe date fruit and a thorn from a nearby date palm tree,  stuck the thorn into one end of the green date to make the mizrarah, and kept it on the floor, spinning the thorn with her fingers, making it spin. She then ran, squealing as Arya chased her with her own mizrarah. 

She went to the shed and found Y’arris waiting for her. 

“Today I will teach you the names of some stars in the sky”, he said. 

It was a clear night, and she could see dozens of stars illuminating the night sky.

“That is Al Aqrab, the scorpion”, said Y’arris, pointing at a group of stars. “That is Sharjah, and the one below is Alniyat. The brightest one over there is Antares”, he continued, gesturing at each one.

Zara was shocked by the beauty of the stars. She had never really paid attention to them before. Now, as she wondered about where else different stars were visible, she thought that no night sky would ever look as magical and beautiful as the one she could see tonight.

Amira’s Odyssey: A Journey Through Joy, Agony, and Reunion by Elias Al Siyabi won the first prize in the 15-18 years category

Amira, a happy six-year-old girl with an angelic face, sparkling hazel eyes, and silky brown hair, lived in the historic city of Nizwa. She enjoyed stargazing, wondering through the verdant farms, listening to birds’ melodies, feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays, smelling the fragrance of flowers, savoring the taste of raindrops, playing in the canal, and having fun with pets. Amira’s life was filled with inexhaustible joy and bliss.

Things took dramatic and drastic turns. Amira was playing on a chilly cloudy winter day, her heart filled with joy, euphoria, and laughter. Suddenly, a wrinkled sorcerer with a prominent nose emerged, his eyes piercing and his voice ominous as he uttered mysterious words that sent shivers down Amira’s spine. She felt her body seize up and her limbs contract, the world around her fading as she collapsed unconscious to the ground. The sorcerer disappeared into the distance.

People rushed to Amira, but soon concluded that she passed away. The cries and wailing echoed in the neighborhood, as Amira was not an ordinary girl but its beloved princess. Before burying her, one attendee suggested that Amira might still be alive and under an enchantment.  Although everyone ridiculed his suggestion, he convinced Amira’s mother to place a small bottle of quicksilver in Amira’s hand, as sorcerers are known to fear it.

After Amira’s funeral, the sorcerer sneaked into the cemetery at night and unearthed her grave. With trembling hands, removed her shroud, and life pulsed through her shivering body. Overcome with fear that the quicksilver may have contaminated her body, he fled, leaving her alone in the dark. The next morning, a Bedouin shepherd discovered Amira, naked and in a state of fear and confusion. He brought her to his tent on the outskirts of the city and handed her over to his barren wife.  When her family discovered the disturbed grave, they believed she had been truly bewitched. 

The Bedouin and his wife adopted Amira as their daughter and a servant. Amira lived a harsh life, lacking the love and tenderness of her mother. As years passed, she became more beautiful and graceful. Her memories gradually returned, and she yearned for her family, often weeping bitterly. She found solace in passing by her old neighborhood while taking the sheep to graze. One day, Amira’s brother happened to spot her and recognized her. He hurried back home to inform everyone what he had seen. They followed Amira, but her adoptive mother stood in their way.

Amira’s parents implored the city’s governor to help retrieve her. The governor summoned a group of women and asked the true mother to join them. As Amira caught sight of her mother, tears of elation streamed down her face, and she rushed into her arms. The mother revealed a unique mark on Amira’s body, confirming her maternal bond. With the truth verified, the governor reunited Amira with her family, and the joyful moment overflowed with unbridled happiness.

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