On November 4, the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) will open its doors to book lovers again. Not virtually, as almost all exhibitions have done around the world this year, but an actual exhibition at its usual location, the Sharjah Expo Centre. With the coronavirus pandemic engulfing the world, Sharjah sends a clear message that life must go on. This is especially so in the UAE, where the virus is being properly handled, economic activities and businesses have been encouraged to reopen and function with all the necessary measures in place to minimise the risk of infection.
“Given Sharjah’s cultural role in the region for the past 50 years, we felt it was especially important for us to remind everyone that reading transcends distances, and has the power to lift us over the hurdles we face, even a pandemic,” Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority SBA, noted on Monday.
Thermal scanners and walk-through sanitisation gates will be installed at all entrances and exit points and regular disinfection will be carried out across the fair’s halls and publisher stalls
The authority, therefore, said the number of visitors would be capped at 5,000 people every three hours, to maintain a healthy environment for visitors and exhibitors in the 10 day famed festival of the written word, fittingly held under the theme, ‘The world reads from Sharjah’. Thermal scanners and walk-through sanitisation gates will be installed at all entrances and exit points and regular disinfection will be carried out across the fair’s halls and publisher stalls.
Meet and interact with authors
Also, the accompanying events, where popular authors meet and interact with their fans, will be held virtually. There are 64 such events planned this year. And to ensure that healthy environment, the organisers have cancelled the opening and award ceremonies and said school students will not be taken on the annual tours to the event this year. But students will be able to meet their favourite authors online under a scheme that is being worked out between the book authority and the Ministry of Education. On the other hand, a total 0f 1,024 publishers from 73 countries will participate in the SIBF with tens of thousands of books on display.
The decision to hold the fair, the third largest in the world and the only cultural event to be held in the world in 2020 in such exceptional circumstances must have been difficult for the organisers. The challenge is not so small. However, the SIBF remains one of the most popular events in the country, region and beyond. It is a matter of great happiness that the fair will continue despite the challenges.