Sharjah: Some 80,000 students were among over 600,000 visitors to this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF). Packed book stalls aside, nearly 400 intellectual and cultural activities also went to make the 31st edition of the event immensely popular.
The 10-day event concluded at the Sharjah Expo Centre on Saturday after a record-breaking show in terms of visitors and international participants.
The book fair drew participation from 924 publishing houses from 62 different countries with Arabic and foreign publishing houses displaying over 1.5 million titles across various stalls and pavilions.
The high turnout was helped in no uncertain measure by over 90 book signing events and book releases by Emirati, Arab and foreign authors of novels, poetry books, autobiographies, children’s books, and cookery books.
With Pakistan accorded special prominence at this year’s event, 30 Pakistani publishers attended the fair for the first time. Pakistani poets and writers Amjad Islam Amjad, Anwar Masoud and Ata-ul-Haq Qasmi, besides poet, writer and anchor Wasi Shah were among the many guests of honour.
Egyptian minister of culture Mohammad Saber Arab, along with high-profile artists like renowned Egyptian comedian Adel Imam and actor Yahya Al Fakhrani were among other prominent attendees.
Ahmad Bin Rakkad Ameri, director of Sharjah International Book Fair, said that having Egyptian officials, authors, and high-profile figures among the guests of honour at the fair helped showcase the country’s cultural and intellectual heritage.
A special pavilion at the fair also showcased 100 rare books which were donated by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to the Institute of Egypt, to replace the books that were destroyed at the research centre during domestic strife.
The SIBF also witnessed numerous seminars, lectures and interactive activities being held under cultural, cookery, and children’s programmes that provided interactive sidelights to the main event.
The cultural programme, which included discussions and lectures by famous authors and scholars, highlighted topics in the areas of politics, philosophy, history, art, music, and literature.
The children’s programme was also a great success, especially among the students who attended the fair from over 150 schools from across the UAE. School children were able to enjoy and participate in over 200 activities that combined culture, knowledge and entertainment, Ameri said.
Several workshops on art, besides story-telling sessions, magic tricks, and creative activities also played a major role in the event’s success.
The cookery programme also drew large crowds with multi-cultural offerings, recipes, and live demonstrations. The programme hosted several famous chefs from around the world including Mridula Balijekar from Britain, Manal Al Alem who specialises in Arabic cuisine, and free-lance chef Gerard Baker.
Cooking demonstrations were well-received as crowds gathered to watch several chefs prepare their favourite dishes and sharing their cooking secrets.