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Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), honoured the winners of the 42nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair Awards and the 15th edition of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children's Literature. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), honoured the winners of the 42nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) Awards and the 15th edition of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature.

The award ceremony was attended by Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, CEO of SBA, along with prominent authors, intellectuals, and media figures.

The SIBF awards covered a wide range of categories.

Distinguished literary works were awarded, including “Happened in Sebeya” by Dr. Suad Al-Araimi for Best Emirati Novel, “Woman in Emirati Folklore: A Cultural Reading of Popular Discourse” by Dr. Aisha Ahmed Al Ghais for Best Emirati Academic Book, “Al-Ghaseq” by Najat Al-Zaheri for Best Emirati Creative Literature Book, and “Mazofa Samma” by Mona Abdulqadir Al-Ali for the Best Emirati First Novel Book Award.

In the category of Best Arabic Novel, “Bab Al-Wadi” by Ahmed Tayyebawi was awarded, while “An Andalus Adventure” by Saiyada Jalali won the Best International Fiction Book, and “Unbounded - A Memoir” by Huda Al-Ghusn was recognised as the Best International Non-Fiction Book. Dar Malamih was named the Best Local Publisher, Al Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah from Egypt won the Best Arab Publisher title, and OM Books International from India clinched the Best International Publisher title.

Award for Arabic Children’s Literature

Sheikha Bodour also honoured the following winners of the 15th edition of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature. In the Early Reader category, “Feelings, Feelings!” by Fatimah Al Sadoun was recognised, “An Elephant on My Finger” by Abdullah Al Sharhan won the Picture Book category, “Destroying the World in 46 Seconds” by Mays Dagher and Mohammed Al Hamawi received the Chapter Book category award, “Mariam’s Earring” by Rania Bedda was honoured in the Young Adult Book category, and “Water’s Singing” by Mohanned Al Akouse was awarded in the Poetry category.

Here is a round-up of what happened and what was said during the first two days of this year’s SIBF.

Rare exhibition on Arab-Portuguese ties

The 42nd edition of SIBF is presenting “The Portuguese in the Gulf, 1507-1650: An Interlinked History,” a rare exhibition unveiling the lesser-known historical link between the Gulf region and Portuguese explorers like Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, and Duarte Barbosa during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the exhibition features a collection of manuscripts, maps, engravings, and nautical instruments, including a mariner’s compass and astrolabe, shedding light on this historical connection. Each exhibit is meticulously numbered and explained, offering a rich exploration of this significant chapter in early overseas exploration.

Immigrants seekers of freedom: Ibrahim Al-Koni

“The desert is the cradle of civilisation, and it played a pivotal role in shaping my personality,” stated Ibrahim Al-Koni, the Libyan-born novelist who has been named the Cultural Personality of the Year at the ongoing 42nd Sharjah International Book Fair.

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Ibrahim Al-Koni, Libyan-born novelist, right, engaged in a chat at SIBF. Image Credit: Supplied

Al-Koni, who was born in the Tuareg Desert and spent his childhood there before migrating to Europe, drew inspiration from myth, magical worlds, and passion for the Tuareg life, which is rich in customs and is considered the unique product of the desert. “The desert told me its own stories,” said the journalist-turned-author who said he had gotten lost in the biggest desert in the world for 36 hours when he was five. The experience brought a metaphysical transformation for Al-Koni, who later went to Russia to study journalism and established an Arabic newspaper in the country.

Sustainable cooperation need of hour: Lee Hee Soo

“Islam is not just a religion, it teaches coexistence and its people have noble ethics,” noted Lee Hee Soo, Emeritus Professor, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Hanyang University, Seoul in a discussion on “The Interconnection between the Islamic world and the Republic of Korea” at SIBF. Prof Lee underscored the need to study Islam in a true manner and the need to have sustainable cooperation.

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Korean anthropologist Lee Hee Soo. Image Credit: Supplied

Moderated by Kim Ho, Professor at Seoul National University Asia Centre, the talk highlighted future plans for South Korea and the UAE, such as the construction of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, agricultural and life science exchange, medical cooperation, space industry cooperation, and cultural and artistic exchange.

Movies boost books’ popularity: David Foenkinose

French novelist, playwright, and director David Foenkinos captivated the SIBF audience on opening day with insights from his movie career in a panel discussion titled “The Parallel Line between Cinema and Books.”

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French novelist, playwright, and director David Foenkinos. Image Credit: Supplied

Joined by Syrian writer and journalist Dr. Mania Suwaid, and moderated by writer Mutaz Quteineh, they delved into the intricacies of writing for both literature and film. Foenkinos, known for his works in over 40 languages, shared that while novels allow for a deeper exploration of characters, movie storytelling focuses on maintaining the narrative flow, employing visuals, sound, editing, and performance to create a cinematic experience. With 19 books and five movies to his name, Foenkinos brought a wealth of experience spanning over two decades to the discussion.

Rare Harry Potter book signed by JK Rowling

A rare first edition of a signed Harry Potter book by JK Rowling is grabbing attention at SIBF with its novelty and a significant five-figure price tag.

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Alex Warren, the owner of Zerzura Rare Books Image Credit: Supplied

Alex Warren, the owner of Zerzura Rare Books, a Dubai-based company specializing in first editions and signed copies, notes, “It is perhaps the most expensive children’s novel you could find at this festival.” He highlighted the rarity of this 1998 edition of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” with only about five such copies worldwide, one of which he possesses.