Saudi book fair: Culture or show?
Saudi society is becoming more open to the world and more acquainted with books
The Riyadh International Book Fair is no ordinary exhibition. Some colleagues could not believe the number of visitors and the level of sales during the past few years. However, those with publishing experience know that these figures are credible.
Photos showing hundreds of visitors queuing to enter the fair are representative of Saudi society, and express the intellectual transformation that it is gradually witnessing.
Great transformations are those that occur silently. Saudi society is becoming more open to the world and more acquainted with books, seeking knowledge and bravely embracing new concepts, no matter how different they are.
Buying books is not conclusive evidence that people are reading, but it clarifies the embrace of knowledge and of other nations’ literature.
Saudi society is becoming more open to the world and more acquainted with books, seeking knowledge and bravely embracing new concepts, no matter how different they areTurki Al-Dakhil
People’s intellect will change if some of what is being bought is read. Some critics view the exhibition as a mere market, and think it does not express anything about society. This is a very negative and radical view, as the festival clearly serves the interests of society and its young generation.
We need a gradual change of ideas, and this is achieved by reading, dialogue and participating. Saudi society has quietly sent its message to world. Those who attribute extremism and terrorism to Saudi society must look at this huge book fair.
This article was first published by Okaz on Mar. 14, 2016.
Turki Al-Dakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.