Dubai: Despite the proliferation of digital and social media, books still hold a special place in the hearts of knowledge seekers. This was evident from the turnout at the 40th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), which this time is based on the theme ‘There is always a right book’ and features about 1,000 activities and includes a star-studded line-up of international authors, speakers, artists and social media experts.
SIBF, which runs until November 13, has displayed various hues, shades and genres of books and authors covering subjects as diverse as literature, culture, food, music and art. For those who love the smell of a freshly printed book, Expo Centre Sharjah, the venue of SIBF, is the place to be.
Step into an audio-visual experience
Booklovers were able to experience an immersive audio-visual experience with spectacular performance of Gisle Meyer, a celebrated Norwegian music artist and composer who presented a rich audio-visual act inspired by libraries and the forgotten sounds of books. Meyer is performing in the Middle East for the first time.
Simple sounds such as turning the pages of a book or touching an old book cover and taking a book out from the library shelf come alive as Meyer transforms them into a futuristic sound mix. Pre-recorded techno melodies and live improvisations with real objects enhance the performance, taking the audiences on an unconventional journey into the world of books.
A gastronomic journey through books
If love for books is eternal and undying, a gastronomic journey introducing authentic Arabic cuisine is a fascinating experience that is available at SIBF through cookery demonstrations by Syria’s ‘cooking queen’ Malakeh Jazmat. Jazmat’s aromatic Maqluba has proved to be a big hit with culinary enthusiasts. Jazmat, a TV chef and restaurateur, simplified authentic Arabic homecooking for thousands of multinational food enthusiasts at SIBF at her cookery corner.
Jazmat, an asylum-seeker in Germany, explained to her multicultural audience the meaning of the name of the dish. ‘Maqluba’ means ‘upside down’, where vegetables and protein form the bottom layer of the cooking pot, which is then topped up with aromatic rice. Once ready, the pilaf is gently flipped on a large serving dish, explained Jazmat. Her audience’s curiosity was aroused and finally satiated with a taste of Jazmat’s homeland on a plate. Visitors can learn the nuances of Syrian cooking from in the SIBF 2021 kitchen until November 13.
Publishing workshop for children
Book-loving children in the age group of 5-12 years, inquisitive about the creation of the book, can attend special workshops, introducing them to the structure of a publishing house. The workshop, titled ‘Create your own publishing house’, is organised by Comme II Faut, a Ukraine-based training institute.
SIBF has organised about 25 workshops for that aim on providing answers about book publishing in the most interesting of ways to enthusiastic youngsters.
“I really enjoyed learning the whole process of publishing and loved playing the role of a writer,” said Max, a 5-year-old Sharjah resident and amongst the youngest to have attended the workshop.
Interactive digital marketing session
If book publishing is a fascinating experience, learning about digital marketing techniques was another big attraction at SIBF. Led by Ahmed Alkhawaja, an entrepreneur and an Emirati speaker known for his talks on marketing and advertising, the interactive session captured the interest of youngsters and adults alike.
An insightful discussion at the popular Social Media Station took its young attendees by surprise as they were informed about how the psychology of marketing was used to influence their decision-making on a daily basis, especially regarding their purchases, both big and small.
The audience received practical tips on ways to incorporate simple, yet effective marketing techniques into their businesses.
Yusef Idris, a small business owner, said: “I have a competitor who does not provide good quality products, but lately, his shop has been full of customers. He has been running social media ads and providing discounts, which motivated me to learn more about social media and marketing. This session definitely helped me to a certain extent and I will try to incorporate the lessons I learned today to grow my business.”
From book to screen play — the journey of storytelling
Yet another eternal dilemma that book lovers always tussle with is ‘what was better, the book or the film based on the book?’ At SIBF, booklovers were drawn into a lively debate on the on book or screen adaptation preference as top storytellers from Saudi Arabia and Spain decode the evolution of screenwriting in a panel discussion.
The discussion sought to answer some of the searing questions that every book lover has always grappled with. Was Mario Puzo — who wrote the iconic The Godfather in the 1960’s — more impactful as a novelist or as a screenplay writer? Was the Nobel Prize winning Naguib Mahfouz — who published 35 novels, more than 350 short stories and 26 movie scripts — a better author or a superior movie writer? These questions set the tone for a fascinating discussion on ‘Screenwriting’ at SIBF.
Visitors gained rich insights into the craft of screenwriting at a lively panel discussion led by Dr Hasan Al-Ni’mi, a Saudi storyteller, academic and critic, and Gabi Martinez, Spanish travel writer and journalist. The session was moderated by media personality Dr Lamya Tawfik.
Meet the youngest author-speaker at SIBF
One of the high points of a seasoned book fair like SIBF is the depth and range of knowledge it offers and the illustrious authors, novelists, motivational speakers one gets to meet. One such star author at SIBF this time is UAE-based child prodigy Sanith Santhasa Piaydigamage. Now 13, Sanith wrote his first book at the age of ten. The book titled ‘Tolerance for Happiness’ an anthology of expressions’, fetched him many accolades and he is the youngest guest speaker at SIBF.
Those who are passionate about the written word must absolutely visit SIBF for a unique journey into the world of books.