Sharjah: Huge crowds grabbed the last chance to browse endless titles and buy books at a discount as the 11-day Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) came to a close on Saturday.
Since the start of SIBF this year on November 1, hundreds of guest authors, intellectuals, celebs, social media influencers, artists and performers had been entertaining visitors to Expo Centre Sharjah, home of SIBF.
Speaking before closing time yesterday, Ahmad Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, said the number of visitors to SIBF 2017 had exceeded 2.2 million so far.
The SIBF, said to be the world’s third largest book fair, featured more than 1,650 publishing houses from 60 countries exhibiting 1.5 million books in the 36th edition.
Last year, SIBF hosted more than 2.31 million visitors, breaking all previous records. The value of book sales at the 2016 edition of the fair had reached Dh176 million, the highest ever in its 35-year history.
The visitor and sales figures for SIBF 2017 are expected to be announced soon.
In a surprise development, which also highlighted the significance of SIBF, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Tuesday had chaired an extraordinary Cabinet meeting at SIBF.
“Amid 1.5 million titles on display at Sharjah International Book Fair, I have presided over the Cabinet meeting during which we approved a Federal Budget of Dh201 billion for 2018-2021,” Shaikh Mohammad had then said.
Following the meeting, Shaikh Mohammad, accompanied by Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, had toured SIBF.
On Saturday, the last day of SIBF, visitors crowded the SIBF pavilions for last-minute purchases. According to the Sharjah Book Authority, which organises SIBF, exhibitors at the book fair sell books at a 25 per cent discount, compared to their usual in-store rates. Some exhibitors had displayed “25% off” signs. However, there did not appear to be any further reductions on the last day. A number of exhibitors told Gulf News there were no special deals on Saturday. Some visitors had hoped to find rock-bottom prices as exhibitors cleared stocks.
Jaya Kumar, an Indian visitor at SIBF, on Saturday said: “I overheard a conversation between a customer and an exhibitor who was giving discounts, so I hope I will also get some special deals today, the last day of the fair.”
Kumar, 41, added: “Compared to back home in India, prices here at the book fair are 80 to 100 per cent higher. But prices between the book fair and book shops in the UAE are almost the same, I would say.”
Another visitor, Shafiqullah Khan, 23, who is also from India, said: “I’m expecting better rates today [Saturday] as it is the last day of the fair. I think prices here are a bit costlier compared to back home. This is my first time at SIBF; I’ve never checked the prices here with bookstores in the UAE. I haven’t come across any special last-day deals yet at the fair, but I hope that’s possible before the day ends.”
Rare books on Middle East now in Sharjah database
Sharjah: The Sharjah Public Library (SPL), a subsidiary of Sharjah Book Authority, has launched a database of rare historical works about the Middle East and Africa that were part of the National Archive of the UK.
The database has made the manuscripts, books, documents, and maps available for public viewing for the first time in the region.
Nearly 3,000 documents dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries — comprising a selection of letters, reports, diplomatic surveys, press releases, statistical analyses, pamphlets and military papers, among other types of important documents and manuscripts — were revealed by the SPL as part of its participation at the Sharjah International Book Fair.
The database has been classified into three main sections according to the geographical region and the general theme of the manuscripts and documents. The first section deals with the Middle East in the period between the mid-19th and 20th centuries. The documents in the section describe the political and historical episodes the region experienced during that period.
Major events like civil wars and revolutions in the history of the Middle East and their political influence on the world during between 1971–81 are contained within these documents.
The second section is dedicated to Africa during 1834–1966, and provides historians and researchers access to confidential correspondences of the UK during the European invasion and colonisation of Africa. The documents offer chronological accounts of the ruling regimes in the continent, their agricultural and educational systems, the status of women, the environment, and stories of Africans migrating to the US in the later years.
Sara Al Marzouqi, manager of SPL, said: “We have been keen to provide these valuable sources of knowledge and information to the teachers, scholars and academia in the UAE, to facilitate teaching and research. We are happy that we have been able to succeed in our mission to help the nation’s guardians of knowledge by providing them with some of the most valuable political, economic and cultural artefacts that have shaped the region’s history.”
The manuscripts and sources have been endorsed by leading institutions, including the British National Archives, the Canadian Archive, the British Library, the universities of Stanford and Manchester, the Cambridge University Library and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.