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Visitors at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair during the 2019 edition. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: After a year of virtual events amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) is all set to welcome visitors in person to its 30th edition, which begins on Sunday, March 23.

For the first time, the event will a hybrid affair, with the inclusion of a number of virtual events for visitors, publishers, educators and experts.

A total of 800 exhibitiors from 46 countries are set to participate in the Fair, which will continue until May 29. More than 100 sessions will be organised, including cultural performances and industry discussions in both Arabic and English.

“Despite the challenges we have faced in the wake of the pandemic, the ADIBF is committed to ramping up its efforts to support the publishing industry and to promote cross-cultural dialogue. We are proud to host this event which reinforces our position as one of the most prominent intellectual and literary forums in region, and gives us the opportunity to highlight Arab literary output while simultaneously celebrating the pioneers of arts and culture from across the world,” said Dr Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.

COVID-19 precautions

This year, entry will be limited to those who are vaccinated against COVID-19, and aged 17 years and older. Visitors must also present a negative COVID-19 PCR test report with 48-hour validity in order to gain access to the Adnec events. As always, other COVID-19 protocols will be in place, including masking and social distancing requirements.

In the meantime, younger residents can also participate in the Fair’s virtual events, organisers have said.

Professional offerings

The Fair’s professional programme includes a session held with Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association, and Richard Charkin, former President of the International Publishers Association and the British Publishers Association, who will discuss copyrights and piracy.

Another session will include multiple discussions about language, and the impact of other languages and cultures on its evolution. Dr. Laila Familiar, senior Arabic lecturer at New York University in Abu Dhabi, will share her experience in developing and updating curricula, and present a new dictionary that includes the most commonly used 2,000 modern words in contemporary Arabic fiction. She will address a group of authors, publishers and teachers to examine the role of literature in arming the new generation with the skills they require to read and write in Arabic.

A number of workshops will teach illustration, music and writing, and offer insight into becoming published authors.

Cultural programmes

Authors and artists are also expected to make their presence felt. American author Tayari Jones, will hold a session to discuss her latest work. American fantasy writer Brent Weeks will talk about the importance of science fiction novels in transporting readers away from the monotony of their daily lives. Providing a regional perspective, Kuwaiti writer Taleb Alrefai will participate in a dialogue with Emirati writer Eman Alyousuf to discuss how the pandemic has played a part in creating a renaissance in the demand for reading.

Renowned British television presenter and historian Bettany Hughes will join a conversation about the impact of plagues and pandemics on civilisations. In another session, Emirati writer Sultan Al Amimi will speak about with the importance of short stories and their role in enhancing literary diversity. The programme will also feature Gilbert Sinoué discussing his novel The Falcon, which contains stories from the life of the UAE’s founding father, and writer Mitch Albom, who will participate in a session to discuss the significance of literature in building a culture of tolerance and compassion.

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Other events

There will also be a host of virtual sessions geared towards younger book enthusiasts, in addition to a poetry evening and sessions with the winners of the 14th and 15th editions of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

How to visit:

Location: Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre

When: May 23-29, 2021

Timings: 9am-10pm on weekdays and Saturday; 4pm-10om on Friday.

Visitors must be vaccinated and present a negative COVID-19 PCR test report with 48-hour validity.

Register in advance to obtain an electronic access card, and follow all safety measures and social distancing protocols onsite.