Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) began on Wednesday with a message of hope against extremism, new book launches and huge crowds visiting.
The 11-day fair, organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), is taking place at Expo Centre Sharjah, featuring 1.5 million books, 1,650 publishers from 60 countries, and several bestselling authors and celebrities. SIBF, said to the world’s third-biggest book fair, is open to all members of the public, free of charge.
During the opening ceremony, Shaikh Sultan said shadowy hands have been promoting malevolent ideas that darken understanding and brainwash individuals, divesting minds of science, intellect, knowledge, culture and light; “preying on our young sons and daughters”.
Such ideas, he added, threaten “our Islam, beliefs, culture, heritage and very existence”. Shaikh Sultan pointed out that the “darkness” can only be faced with the light of truthful words, science and culture. He highlighted the importance of Egypt and its historical role in ensuring the region’s security, standing like a fortified citadel that fights destructive ideas and practices that harm the Arab world.
The opening ceremony also featured a short documentary about four new titles authored by the Sharjah Ruler: Poetry Debates between Shaikh Sultan Bin Saqr Al Qasimi and His Friend, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Abdul Aziz Al Seddiqi; Tale of A City – Second Volume; Very Important Journey; and I Owe.
All the new books were signed by Shaikh Sultan and presented to senior guests from around the world.
Ahmad Al Ameri, chairman of SBA, said: “Year after year, Sharjah extends its cultural message through science and knowledge, a message which this fair has established over many years, reflecting the country’s ideals and the people’s principles. This has led to Sharjah being recognised as the Islamic Cultural Capital and Cultural Capital of the Arab World. The emirate’s ever-increasing international status as a source of knowledge, positivity and ambition has now also helped it to achieve the title of Unesco’s World Book Capital 2019.”
Al Ameri added that Sharjah can offer 2 million books at its libraries, as well as more than 620 books with 14 million words that have been translated from and into Arabic, as part of SIBF’s Translation Grant, which was launched in 2011.
15 million books
He said Sharjah Publishing City (SPC), which was recently inaugurated by Shaikh Sultan, will be a key destination for publishers, and will open a window to the global book market. In its forthcoming phases, it will be home to more than 500 companies specialised in the publishing sector from around the world, with a printing capacity of a million books a day. It will provide more than 15 million books in multiple languages through the institutions and publishing houses that operate from the facility.
“The true history of SIBF began when His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah wrote the first line of the event’s biography in 1982. There was some doubt that the fair would not attract a large audience, but not only did the fair succeed, it developed and grew to become one of the three largest and most important book fairs in the world,” Al Ameri added.
During the opening ceremony, Shaikh Sultan honoured Dr Mohammad Sabir Arab, Egypt’s former minister of culture, as the Cultural Personality of the Year for SIBF 2017, in recognition of his cultural contributions, academic achievements and his quest to enhance Egypt’s cultural relations.
Dr Arab thanked Shaikh Sultan for the honour and praised his vision of Sharjah as a beacon of knowledge and culture. Dr Arab dedicated Wednesday’s commemoration to “the spirits of the martyrs of Egypt who are dying defending their homeland” from armed groups.
Shaikh Sultan also honoured winners of various awards in the publishing industry, organised by SIBF and its official sponsor Etisalat. He presented the inaugural SIBF translation prize, the Turjuman Award, to Editorial Verbum, a Spanish publishing house, for its translation of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’. Luis Rafael Hernández, director of the Editorial Verbum, received the award.
SBA posted on its Twitter account (@SharjahBookAuth): “SBA gives out the world’s highest value translation award ‘Tarjuman’ of AED 1.3 million at #SIBF17 to the Spanish edition of ‘1,001 Nights’.”
This year, SIBF celebrates the UK by naming the country as the designated Guest of Honour in line with the UK/UAE Year of Creative Collaboration 2017, organised by the British Council in the UAE to enhance collaboration and commemorate the historical and cultural ties between them.
On the SIBF opening day on Wednesday, scores of schoolchildren visited the giant fair, browsing and buying books. On average, around 50,000 to 60,000 people visit the fair daily, according to the SBA.
This year, new halls have been added to accommodate the rising swell of exhibitors. The atmosphere at the fair is no less busy — and loud — than a carnival, with shows, food stalls and activities peppered around the halls. During peak times — on weekend nights and during visits by star writers — there is barely room to walk.
Spread across more than 14,600 square metres, this year’s edition will feature almost 400 guests from nearly 50 countries, who will take part in more than 2,600 events.
Last year, the fair hosted more than 2.31 million visitors, breaking all previous records. The volume of book sales at the 2016 edition of the fair reached Dh176 million, the highest ever in its 35-year history.
Both readers and publishers at SIBF said the love of books is still strong, despite speculation that the digital era would push paper books out of people’s lives.
Box: SIBF Awards
The Best Emirati Book by an Emirati Creative Writer Award went to Nadiya Al Najjar for her novel ‘The D Trilogy’.
The Best Emirati Academic Book Award went to Dr Maitha Majid Al Shamsi for her book ‘The Semiology of Sign in Contemporary Emirati Theatre’.
The Best Emirati Book Award about the UAE went to Dr Rashid Ahmad Al Mazroui for his book ‘The Encyclopedia of Popular Proverbs’.
The Best Arabic Novel Award went to author Abdullah Al Basees for his novel ‘Wolf Trap’.
The Best International Fiction Book award went to Lauri Kubuitsile, for her novel ‘The Scattering’.
The Best International Non-Fiction Book award went to Sophie Le Ray, Radhika Punshi and David B. Jones for their book ‘Game Changers’.
The Best Local Publisher award went to Dar Molhimon from the UAE.
The Best Arab Publisher award went to Dar Al Mada from Iraq.
The Best International Publisher went to The Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Co. from India.
Box: Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature:
Organised by the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) and sponsored by Etisalat Group, The Children’s Book of the Year, worth Dh300,000, went to ‘Two Homes Instead of One’ by Lorca Sbeity, illustrated by Mona Yakzan and published by Dar Al Saqi in Lebanon.
Young Adult’s Book of the Year, worth Dh200,000, went to ‘Cappuccino’ by Fatima Sharaf Al Deen, which is published by Dar Al Saqi in Lebanon.
Best Text, worth Dh100,000, went to ‘My Mother is a Gorilla and My Father is an Elephant’ by Dr Naseeba Al Ozaibi, illustrated by Abdulrazaque Al Salhany and published by Al Aalm Al Arabi publishing house in the UAE.
Best Production, worth Dh100,000, went to ‘Whatever Happened to My Brother Ramiz’ by Taghreed Najjar, illustrated by Maya Fidawi and published by Al Salwa Publishers in Jordan.
Best Illustration, worth Dh100,000, went to ‘The Seventh Day’s Sheep’ by Amina Al Hashemi, illustrated by Maya Fidawi and published by Yanbow Al Kitab in Morocco.
Digital Book App of the Year, worth Dh100,000, went to ‘Lamsa’ application, which targets the age group of two to eight years, developed by the Lamsa Company in the UAE.