Shaikh Sultan presenting Cultural Personality of the Year award to Prince Khalid Al Faisal of Saudi during the Sharjah International Book Fair Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Sharjah: The 34th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) opened on Wednesday at the Expo Centre with rich tributes for Sharjah and its Ruler.

At the opening ceremony, it was announced that a new Dh2 million award will be given for efforts in translation of works from Arabic into any language.

At the opening ceremony were His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and Prince Khalid Al Faisal, Adviser to Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and Governor of Makkah Province. Prince Khalid, known as the Poet Prince, will be honoured as the Cultural Personality of the Year during the ceremony.

In his keynote speech, Dr Shaikh Sultan said "the book is the light against ignorance". He added that all books are welcome at SIBF as long as they don't preach hate against anyone.

Dr Shaikh Sultan is expected to launch his latest book during the second half of the SIBF opening ceremony. He had revealed details of a new book project during the Frankfurt book fair in October.

The Sharjah Ruler, who was called the "sultan of culture" by Prince Khalid Al Faisal at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, said the "most dangerous threat to culture is to mix culture with political ideology".

He said some minds had been "dominated by devilish ideas" and called for a suggested "cultural democratic conference of the Arab world... to meet as makers of cultures required under these dangerous circumstances".

Dr Shaikh Sultan also said the new Sharjah Book Authority and a dedicated free zone for books has been established to, in part, monitor the import and export of books "so we can correct some mistakes therein".

Speaking at SIBF, Saudi Prince Khalid Al Faisal urged Arab leaders to “extinguish the fire of sedition” and praised the exemplary role of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the region.

The 11-day book fair features a record-breaking 1.5 million titles this year.

The fair is expected to host more than 1,500 publishing houses from 64 countries and more than 500 writers, literary figures, intellectuals and media persons from around the Arab region and the world.

Wednesday’s opening ceremony will honour the winners of the SIBF 2015 Awards and the winners of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature, as well as the Cultural Personality of the Year.

Also taking part in the ceremony will be celebrities such as Egyptian actor Mohammad Sobhy, British broadcaster John McCarthy, Nigerian author Ben Okri, and Indian actor Mohanlal.

Day 1 highlights

10am: Opening Ceremony and Award Distribution

7.15pm-8.15pm: Literature Forum on Writing and Facing the Current Situation, which will discuss the power of positive words in fighting crises. Taking part will be Habib Al Sayegh, Moni Mohsin, John Mcarthy, and Mohammad Gobashi

8.30pm-9.30pm: At the Book Forum, a session on the Similarity among Literary Genres will be discussed by Dr Shukri Al Mabkhout, Fatima Sultan Al Mazroui, Huda Barakat and Asma Al Zarouni