40th Sharjah International Book Fair attracts 1.69 million visitors from 109 nationalities|Arab News Japan

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Amin Abbas

DUBAI: After establishing itself as the world’s largest book fair this year and receiving 1,692,463 visitors representing 109 nationalities, curtains fell on the 40th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), which ran its course from Nov. 3-13 under the theme ‘There’s always a right book.’

The cultural extravaganza brought together 1,632 publishers from 83 countries. This milestone edition, where Spain was Guest of Honor, surpassed every international book fair held this year to become the world’s largest by attracting the largest number of publishers and literary agents looking to network, matchmake and do business with each other.

The vibrant and diverse programming agenda of SIBF 2021 included more than 1,000 activities, including 440 cultural sessions, 355 shows, performances, seminars and workshops for children, and more than 80 awe-inspiring theatrical and dance performances from Europe, Asia, and Africa. For the first time in the history of SIBF, aspiring illustrators, designers and art directors had an opportunity to benefit from a series of free workshops and panel sessions as part of a dedicated Illustration Survival Corner, organized in collaboration with Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

SIBF 2021 hosted 85 authors and intellectuals from 22 countries who led the fair’s events and activities.

An interesting finding made by the book fair this year was that around 20,000 amongst the 1.6 million visitors to SIBF 2021 walked into the 11-day fair more than once; and thousands have visited the fair 3 to 7 times. Some even made multiple visits in one day – a clear sign that SIBF is a major cultural attraction. The fair received visitors from 109 nationalities with the UAE securing the top spot, followed by India, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, Philippines, Morocco, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Algeria, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, Austria, America, Canada, and other countries.

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority told  Arab News Japan said about the challenges of organizing this year’s edition of Sharjah International Book Fair: “The Sharjah International Book Fair succeeded in organizing the biggest book fair in the world and overpassed many book fairs to prove that culture is not being exclusive for certain country, but it’s an expansion for humanity around the world & Sharjah International Book Fair is being matched with the biggest events around the world in terms of selling & buying copyrights as well the participation of publishers & writers with us at the book fair is considered  as a success of the Arabic & Emirati cultures as well a success for the vision of H.H. Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, member of the Federal Supreme Council of United Arab Emirates & ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah.”

About the differences of organizing this year’s edition of Sharjah International Book Fair comparing to last year’s edition, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri said: “There were limitations of participation for publishers at last year’s edition of Sharjah International Book Fair due to the COVID – 19 pandemic where we had to accept only 70% of the previous exhibitors list for last year’s event to avoid crowded places and give more space for visitors to go around the event for social distancing.”

“This year, we are confirming to everyone that we got benefited from our previous experience to go through steady steps to share culture & thoughts to the world to establish a fully creative knowledge system through this event that cover all kinds of different literature & arts such as: theater, art & literature as well poets, writers & novelists where they all gathering with us in one place to prove that the Arabian culture & Arabic hand can establish fully integrative system from this event that it roots is being expanded from the Arabic originality.”

Khoula Al Mujaini, Director of Fair and Festivals, SBA, said that SIBF 2021 has achieved the distinguished honour of becoming the largest international book fair in the world. She stated that each year, the event provides new opportunities for publishers across the world to grow and prosper.

Abd El Ghani Mohammed from Egyptian Mahrousa Publishing Center said: “We are always pleased to participate at Sharjah International Book Fair and this year we participated at the event with a huge collection of translated books specifically from Japanese literature such as: Barefoot Gen, I Am a Cat (Wagahai wa Neko de Aru) and The Makioka Sisters (Sasameyuki) where we have released two volumes of the series in Arabic & the third volume will be released soon at Cairo book fair.”

“The Japanese & Asian literature has a huge crowd in Egypt & the Middle East overall, we have discovered about it very lately about the huge follow up of these books from many readers in the Middle East. We have managed to do the trail to get books from Asian literature to be translated to Arabic language so that the readers in the Middle East can enjoy reading these books,” he added.

Ayumi Kimba from j-Links CO.LTD. said: “We were here in 2018 when Japan was the guest of honor for the 37th edition of Sharjah International book fair and this is our second participation in SIBF. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some people from our side couldn’t come to SIBF this year and we are only two people who are representing our company here at the event.”

“We wanted many people to know more about Japan & its culture specifically from Kansai region where we are from as we will have Expo 2025 in Osaka, Japan after Expo 2020 in Dubai.”

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