DUBAI // For visitors to the largest floating book fair docked at Port Rashid, the novels and non-fiction titles for sale are a secondary attraction.
The travel stories of the volunteers of the Logos Hope, which they willingly share as they assist book lovers, is what makes the liner a major draw.
The ship sailed into the emirate on Friday, replete with 400 volunteer crew from all over the world and an impressive display of 7,000 titles. The sale opened to the public yesterday afternoon.
Logos Hope is the fourth vessel belonging to GBA Ships, a not-for-profit organisation based in Germany. Its journey began two years ago in Europe and it has been in the Middle East for the past six months.
"There are many facets to the ship and its appeal differs from country to country," said Jessie LaPlue, the media relations officer of the fair.
"In some lower developing countries, like in Africa, we have scores of people standing in line for hours to gain access to the books, because education for some is a luxury there," she said. "But in many other countries, people are fascinated by the volunteer work.
"It surprises people how the members have left their jobs and life to be on a ship … and they aren't even being paid for it."
Crew members enrol with the shared goal of making a difference through charity projects and spreading the word of cultures existing in harmony.
Ms LaPlue, a university graduate, has been on the ship for a year and has already visited 15 countries. For her, the adventure has been a crash course in cultures. "As a crew we see this as an opportunity to build relationships with the locals and share our experiences."
Every member, from engineers to the cooks, commits to a non-paid service on the ship for a certain number of years. During that time, they have the opportunity to learn life skills and serve the community they are based in.
Matthew Dent joined the team when he was 18. Although he aspires to continue his education in the audio-visual field, the past three years aboard the ship have broadened his perspective of the world.
"On the ship I have received a lot of training in various areas and have got qualifications that will be beneficial when I go back," the Australian crew member who works in the control room said. "I have been able to step into different leadership positions as well."
Volunteers who are assigned to the book fair are well informed about the titles and can assist visitors with the English as well as Arabic books, which they have added for people in the Emirates.
"When we go to ports where the primary language is something else, we source books from local distributors," Ms LaPlue said.
"We work with the country's officials to bring books that are relevant and make sure they are not offensive to the culture." She said the children's section was the largest as the crew planned to host school visits.
Caroline Geluk, a Dubai resident from the Netherlands who was at the fair with her three children, said she wasn't planning to buy too many books, but wanted to meet some of the crew members.
"I know the mission of the ship and find it interesting," Mrs Geluk said. "We get to meet so many people and the fact that they are volunteers has aroused my curiosity.
"In fact, we met a Dutch lady on the ship and coincidently we have a common friend in Lebanon, which is so exciting."
Another resident, Nita Ved, 46, said interacting with the people behind the fair was a good lesson for youngsters. "It teaches them about being selfless and the members provide a good example of unity," she said.
Ms LaPlue said about 40 to 60 new members would fly into Abu Dhabi next month to replace retiring crew members. "We encourage UAE residents to sign up for the cause as well."
The Logos Hope will be open in Dubai at Port Rashid until February 5. Opening hours are 1pm to 10.30pm from Saturday to Wednesday, and 4pm to 10.30pm on Thursday and Friday. Logos Hope will be open in Abu Dhabi from February 7 until February 19.