SHARJAH The 38th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) concluded yesterday (Saturday) after a record turnout of 2.52 million visitors through the 11-day event. Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) under the Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 theme ‘Open Books… Open Minds’, the event witnessed participation of Nobel laureates, Booker Prize and Oscar winners, along with 2,000 publishers from 81 countries.

On November 7, SIBF set a Guinness World Record for successfully hosting the world’s largest simultaneous book signing ceremony in one location with 1,502 authors from the UAE and beyond signing their own books. SIBF broke the previous record held by Turkey.

To further expand the reach of books in the Middle East and African continents, SBA partnered with Big Bad Wolf Ventures Sdn. Bhd. (BBW) – popularly known as the organiser of the World’s Biggest Book Sale, to setup a regional branch at Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone – Big Bad Wolf Sharjah. Under this new agreement, one billion books will be circulated across MEA countries over the next five years to widely introduce the literary products of individual nations to promote cultural exchange and appreciation.

SIBF 2019 celebrated the Republic of Mexico as a Guest of Honour. Lebanese author and critic Dr Yumna Al Eid (also known as Hikmat Sabbagh) was named the Cultural Personality of the Year. The fair hosted a stellar line-up of notable Arab and international guests. Among them were America’s most-loved host Steve Harvey, the Turkish Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, poet and filmmaker Gulzar who has won an Academy Award, Omani author Jokha Alharthi – the first Arabic-language writer to win the prestigious Man Booker International Prize, leadership guru Robin Sharma and Indian author and poet Vikram Seth.

Dh4.5m grant

His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, allocated Dh4.5 million for the acquisition of a selection of titles, brought in by publishers participating SIBF 2019, to continuously update the emirate’s libraries with valuable reading materials and resources in history, literature, politics, arts, science, technology in Arabic and international languages.

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, chairman of SBA, said, “It’s now 38 years for SIBF promoting the writings of authors and intellectuals from around the world, offering our visitors a platform to meet and interact with prominent Arab and international cultural figures. This 11-day cultural celebration is born out of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, to raise generations empowered by knowledge. Our cultural project follows from the Sharjah Ruler’s belief that arts and culture are universal languages. They are bridges that enable interactions and strengthen relationships between civilisations around the world.”

“Sharjah’s cultural project was launched more than 40 years ago, and today has become a symbol by which our emirate is recognised in Arab and international circles. Our cultural role is reflected in the fact that the world’s leading cultural honour of UNESCO World Book Capital is carried by Sharjah this year. SIBF has grown to become one of the top three book fairs in the world, an event that publishers, authors, book lovers and children wait a whole year to participate in.” Al Ameri continued.

987 activities

SIBF 2019 activities saw the participation of 173 leading authors from 68 countries, taking part in 987 events ranging from book discussions and signings, theatre, social media events, kids and cookery activities, and more, in addition to plays, magic shows, and comics-based activities.

This year, SIBF held 350 cultural activities presented by 90 guests from 28 countries, while children enjoyed 409 activities by 28 guests from 13 countries around the world. Meanwhile, the Cookery Corner was home to 48 live culinary activities by 15 Arab and international chefs from nine countries, while 66 activities held by five guests from four countries were held at the Comic Book Corner.