Sharjah International Book Fair attracts record 2.31 mln visitors

SIBF, held every year at the Sharjah Expo Center, has now become a cultural phenomenon in the Middle East

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The curtains came down on the 35th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Saturday – the most successful to date, since it was launched in 1982, setting records for the number of visitors as well hosting 1,681 publishing houses from 60 countries with approximately 1.5 million titles on display.

More than 2.31 million visitors attended, compared to 1.2 million visitors last year. Sales too hit a high of Dh176 million from Dh135 million last year.

In a press statement, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), the organizers of SIBF, said: “The UAE leadership’s decision to promote reading and a love of books has been an instrumental factor in making this year’s edition of Sharjah International Book Fair its most successful to date.”

Of course, the event’s patron and its biggest supporter has been Sharjah ruler, Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council, who believed in its potential from its very first edition, when only six publishers were present and hardly any visitors.

Sharjah Book Fair
Sharjah Book Fair

Significant announcements made during SIBF 2016 included Al Ameri revealing the brand name ‘Turjuman’ for the Dh2 million Sharjah Translation Award for international translation and authorship award which will be run by SBA.

Offering further support for SIBF, Dr Sheikh Sultan announced that he was making a personal donation of Dh4 million for Sharjah’s libraries to purchase books from participating publishers at the fair, thereby considerably enriching the emirate’s literary landscape.

SIBF, held every year at the Sharjah Expo Center, has now become a cultural phenomenon in the Middle East, and is the third biggest book fair globally, after Frankfurt and London.

UAE Year of Reading

Mohan Kumar, External Affairs executive, SIBF, pointed out that this year the theme was ‘Read More’ and also coincided with the UAE Year of Reading initiative, and hence drew many visitors, mainly families and school children.

Visitors enjoyed an array of sessions hosted by its Kids Activities program, Cultural Activities program, Cultural Café, Cookery Corner and Social Media Café.

The official who has been working with the Book Fair since long, said many libraries also bought books from the 1.5 million titles, adding to the sales figures. There were 88,000 being new titles.

An array of cultural personalities and media celebrities participated at SIBF 2016, including renowned Egyptian actor Ezzat Al Alaili, Algerian poet and novelist Ahlam Mosteghanemi, Saudi poet Dr. Mohammed Al Muqrin, Palestinian poet Ibrahim Nasrallah, Iraqi researcher and writer Rasheed Al Khyoun, International relations expert Dr. Parag Khanna, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and South Indian film actor and producer Mammootty.

Famous authors taking part included Cassandra Clare, writer of The Mortal Instruments fantasy novels and Eric Van Lustbader, New York Times bestselling author who has penned 10 of The Bourne Series novels.

Speaking to Al Arabiya, the official said one of the main issues facing the organizers had been the lack of space at the existing venue – Sharjah Expo Center – because of which they had to close registrations early and turn away many publishers. Also, being in the city center, the heavy traffic impeded visitors, which was compounded by the lack of parking.

New exhibition center

Kumar said a new exhibition center has been announced by Dr Sheikh Sultan to host the Book Fair

Work has already started on the new facility located near Emirates Road, away from Sharjah city center, and will be ready early next year in time to host the Children’s Reading Festival in April, he said.

While the Expo Center is under the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce, the new exhibition center will be exclusively under SIBF, enabling them to organize many events throughout the year.

The official pointed out that the new location will be more accessible for book lovers and visitors from other emirates like Dubai, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

Next year’s Sharjah International Book Fair to be held in November at its new custom-made venue is going to be yet another trailblazer, says Kumar.

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