Abu Dhabi: Hundreds of residents, including dozens of excited schoolchildren, flocked to the opening of the 23rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) in the capital on Wednesday.
The first day of the popular event found exhibitors selling titles within an hour of the start, and author discussions and panel sessions saw packed audiences.
Held under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the fair was inaugurated by Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA).
“The ADIBF attracts publishers and internationally renowned authors every year. We are confident that this year’s edition will see record-breaking numbers as the event continues to strengthen its reputation as a regional and international cultural centre for literature and publishing,” said Juma Abdullah Al Qubaisi, ADIBF director.
According to organisers, nearly 200,000 people are expected to visit the six-day event until it concludes on April 29 (Monday). About 500,000 titles are on offer in 30 different languages.
The number of exhibitors has also increased to 1,025 this year, representing a 13 per cent increase on the nearly 900 exhibitors in 2012. As a result, the ADIBF spans 23 per cent more exhibition space and features many more activities.
Compared to previous years, this year’s event was filled with schoolchildren, many of whom said they were able to attend because their school exams had finished last month.
“I have not been able to visit the ADIBF in previous years, because it was usually held before my school exams. This year, it is being organised at the end of April after my exams, so I am excited to be here. I am looking for interesting novels within the adventure genre,” Nouf Shamsi, a Grade 11 pupil from Al Ain, told Gulf News.
Nouf said she loved reading and spent more than two to three hours a week to read for pleasure.
“My older sister also loves books, so I am looking for things to buy for her,” Nouf added.
Al Tayyeb Al Hadi, 20, a university student from Sudan, said he had heard about the book fair and had come by to look for titles in fiction.
“I have been to the ADIBF many times before, and generally find that it is easier to find specific things because there are so many publishers in the same place. Last year, I ended up purchasing seven books on nature and Islamic culture. This year, in addition to novels, I am looking for good books on photography,” he said.
Al Hadi added that he was likely to return to the fair with his friends over the next few days.
Exhibitors also appeared more hopeful about this year’s event.
“We have been participating in the fair for 10 years, and this year, we have about 10,000 titles for sale at our stall. Sales were slow in previous years, but the crowds this year could indicate more interest,” said Noorul Huq, manager at UAE-based Al Mutanabbi Bookshop LLC.
He said that in general, educational and children’s books appeared to be most in demand at the ADIBF.
One of the most popular attractions this year is a Discussion Sofa with authors, poets, researchers, journalists and essayists talking about their work. Wednesday’s sessions already saw dozens of people and visitors in attendance. Winners of international and regional prizes for books will also participate in the Discussion Sofa over the coming days.
There is also an area known as The Tent, which will feature storytelling, poetry reading and literary debates.
A new section, known as the GCC Stage, is dedicated to writers, poets and intellectuals from the GCC countries. The Show Kitchen is another addition to the fair, wherein chefs from the region are preparing and sharing recipes for healthy cuisine.
A host of workshops are also being organised for young attendees, and music and dance performances will also be staged for the first time as part of the ADIBF. In addition, a set of professional panel discussions has been introduced to aid publishers and writers, and explore reading trends.