As the Sharjah book fair comes to a close, we talk to its director about its role and what's in the works for next year.
Ahmed Al Amri on the Sharjah International Book Fair's success
What started 31 years ago with just 30 publishers showcasing purely Arabic titles has today grown into the sixth-largest book fair in the world, in the same league as events in Frankfurt and London.
The Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) director, Ahmed Al Amri, says the event, which wrapped up this weekend, is among the most important for both regional and international authors, publishers, educational institutions and industry professionals.
The bestsellers at SIBF included Taking the Reins by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, and Ahlam Mostaghanmi's new book Black Suits You, which was launched at the book fair and sold at least 5,000 copies.
"We have surpassed 500,000 attendees this year. People come to this book fair because it is the gateway to the Arab world - where there are more than 250 million readers - and to the international market," says Al Amri. "We started with a humble 30 publishers and today, we have 924 from 62 different countries covering all continents and displaying at least 385,000 titles."
But these numbers are not the only measure of success, he adds, pointing also to the "special" visit from the Ruler of Dubai and the Vice President of the UAE.
"It is so successful because of Sheikh Sultan's vision. Also, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's visit this week is further proof of this success and the level of our achievements," he says. "It is crucial and we are grateful for the support of the Government because we are ultimately helping the community, the country and the whole region."
Book fairs depend also on relationships within the industry and Al Amri travels nonstop throughout the year, to various literary events. He has already begun preparations for next year's SIBF.
"If you think this year was successful, just wait until next year. It is going to be much bigger and we have A-list names," he says.
Among other in-demand books was the autobiography of Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, the chairman of Al Habtoor Group, which was published in English and Arabic. In the book, he shares the challenges he overcame to become one of the country's most successful businessmen. It is now available in bookshops across the UAE.
The American stand also proved popular, with educational textbooks being in high demand. The university representatives of several countries including Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq (and the American Library of Congress) were also in attendance.
"It took a lot of hard work and effort to reach this stage - this did not come easy, but I'm already working on next year, which is going to be amazing," says Al Amri.