Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Sharjah International Book Fair and the Arab Reading Challenge passionately promote the joy of literature

High-profile UAE events such as these play a valuable part in bringing the light of Middle Eastern culture to the whole world

Visitors take a browse titles at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Satish Kumar for the National 
Visitors take a browse titles at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Satish Kumar for the National 

The Sharjah International Book Fair, which opens tomorrow , is an exciting chapter in the unfolding story of the UAE’s passionate advocacy of literacy and education in the Arab world. Well over two million visitors from dozens of countries will descend on Sharjah to engage with thousands of debates, talks and activities during a 10-day celebration of the printed word that will feature 1.5 million books and attract hundreds of publishers from dozens of countries.

Over the past 36 years, the fair has become one of the largest in the world, and the single most important event for the promotion of Arab literature. Of course, international publishing professionals will meet to negotiate translation rights. But Sharjah differs from other book fairs, such as those in London and Frankfurt, in that its main objective is to promote a love of the written word. That objective is shared by the Arab Reading Challenge – launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Ruler of Dubai – which today announced its winner, nine-year-old Mariam Amjoon from Morocco.

This inspiring competition asks much of its young entrants, who have to read at least 50 books in Arabic in a year, summarising the contents to the satisfaction of judges. The fact that this year, it attracted an astonishing 10 million young people from across the globe speaks volumes about the hunger for Arab literature. From the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, funded by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism and held in the city since 2007, to the launch this month of Madrasa, an online learning tool that will allow 50 million Arabic-speaking children to access knowledge from around the world, the UAE is doing much to build an Arabic cultural renaissance upon the foundations of literacy and learning. The subject of one talk at the Sharjah book fair tomorrow evening is “The sun of Arab culture”, a discussion about how the Arab nation can rekindle the bright light of Arabic erudition that once illuminated the world. In the UAE, that sun is already shining.