General view during the first day of the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico Image Credit: AFP

I can say with confidence that the best representative over the time is a book, with apologies to the great Arab poet Abu Al ṬAyyib Al Mutanabbi for paraphrasing his famous verse: “The cherished place in the world is a saddle and the best companion over the time is a book.”

This is indeed what I sensed during my presence at the Guadalajara International Book Fair 2022 in Mexico as part of the Sharjah cultural delegation, where Sharjah was celebrated as the guest of honour. Needless to say, Sharjah emerged as the bride of the Mexican book fair and a shining star.

As the guest of honour, Sharjah made the best use of its strong presence in bringing the UAE’s culture, apart from its literary tradition, to Mexico and the Spanish-speaking world, through a diverse cultural programme featuring a selection of seminars, lectures and various literary activities.

Read more

During the book event, the Sharjah pavilion served as an ideal platform to showcase the country’s rich culture, heritage, literature, language, media, theatre, music and art, as well as poetry, novels, and children’s literature, among other literary activities.

The emirate’s cultural programme witnessed a massive turnout of visitors who flocked to the Sharjah pavilion, which was characterised by its attractive and elegant design and large exhibition space that complimented the size of the world’s second largest book fair and the biggest cultural extravaganza held in Guadalajara.

I do not know the extent of the success of Sharjah’s participation this time compared to its other participations in international book fairs over the past years. Nevertheless, as the common proverb says, a book is judged by its title, it can be said that Sharjah’s participation in Mexico this year was a resounding success.

This is not only by the testimony of media professionals who had previously participated in other exhibitions but is determined by the intensive daily footfall of enthusiastic visitors who were keen to attend the pavilion’s various daily activities.

People walk in the "Sharjah" hallway during the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico, on November 26, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Passionate visitors to the pavilion showed great interest in viewing the exhibited books in various genres including history, literature, heritage and art. We, as writers, were very happy to find our literary works, translated into Spanish, displayed on the shelves of the book fair, thanks to the Sharjah Book Authority.

Seeing my book titled “On the Edge of Day” among the displayed books reignited the writing fire inside me after it had almost faded. It also reminded me of our literary tradition and took me back to the 1980s when Sharjah spearheaded its cultural journey — to become the cultural gem of the Arab world today.

Sheikh Sultan's tireless efforts

The cultural renaissance in the emirate would not have been possible without the support and patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, the Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who has been committed to developing the cultural landscape in the emirate, making it a beacon of culture regionally and globally. Thanks to Sheikh Sultan’s immense efforts, Sharjah has become the book and cultural capital of the Arab world, conveying its cultural message to the world.

In fact, the high-profile image presented by Sharjah no longer represents the emirate alone, but also the UAE and broader Arab culture, specifically through its international participations.

This was clearly evident at the Guadalajara International Book Fair as the patriotic spirit and the name of the UAE echoed through the pavilion’s design, decoration, cultural products, heritage, art and other activities that all combined as the best ambassador of the UAE.

In this context, it is imperative to refer to the outstanding efforts of a passionate group of our youth who were behind this impressive work and represented their country in a brilliant way. The talented Emirati group was led by Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Department of Government Relations, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association, and Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, each in their area of specialisation.

Finally, the common denominator between Arab culture and Spanish culture contributed to the success of the exhibition. This is because the influence of Arabs is still apparent in terms of culture, language, and music, where chemistry can clearly be felt through Spanish vocabulary of Arabic origin, as well as the scientific achievements devoted by the Arab-Andalusian presence, and the cultural coexistence that lasted for nearly eight centuries.

Despite the passing of several decades, the hateful and inhuman “Reconquista” wars did not succeed in uprooting the roots of Arab culture from the Spanish culture.

This living pulse has remained in the genes of young generations who came to the Sharjah pavilion to search for the past and learn about their ancestors through books. It reminded me of how nostalgia never stops at a certain time or history.