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Sharjah book fair: Expect the unexpected this year

The upcoming Sharjah International Book Fair 2017 has some surprises in store for visitors, besides a stellar list of bestselling authors and celebrities who have already been confirmed, said Ahmad Al Amiri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority, which organises the annual event.

The 36th edition of the fair, said to be the world’s third biggest book fair, will be held from November 1 to 11 at Expo Centre Sharjah.

In an interview, Al Amiri told Gulf News that apart from those writers, speakers and celebs who are already confirmed to take part, the authority is expecting the presence of at least two more icons.

This year children will have a new comics pavilion, and in line with the theme there will be a UAE launch of the new Justice League movie. can Student’s during the Sharjah Book Fair at Sharjah Expo last year. Photo: Atiq-ur-Rehman/Gulf News

“One of them is a big author who is known around the world. There is going to be a unique way of presenting him. We will announce [the details]; something unique will happen,” he said.

Al Amiri did not divulge any further details, but did say the surprise announcements include a blogger who has “a billion” followers.

This year’s line-up includes Pakistani cricket icon Wasim Akram; legendary Indian poet and filmmaker Gulzar; bestselling American writer Peter Lerangis; Syrian actor Gassan Masood; British historian Peter Frankopan; Indian actor R. Madhavan; Iraqi novelist Ali Ghadeer, veteran Indian actress Hema Malini and many more luminaries.

The book fair will see the participation of 1,650 publishing houses from 60 countries; more than 1.5 million titles will be on display. New, surprising developments related to these figures will also be announced on the opening day of the fair, Al Amiri added.

This year’s Guest of Honour – the UK – will showcase a rare display of one of the oldest manuscripts of the Quran. There will be a panel discussion about this historical treasure at the fair.

Comics pavilion

Visitors will also be pleasantly surprised by a new hall added to the giant fair, Al Amiri said. The hall will mostly house Indian and other foreign publishers, as well as be the home of the new comics pavilion. In line with the comics theme, there will be a UAE launch of the new Justice League movie. Al Amiri said the comics section has become very popular.

Contrary to popular belief, he added, “the good thing about comics is it doesn’t stay in one age group, you have people in their 60s hooked to comics. Yes, it’s good business, but it’s also a good way of getting people reading.”

Al Amiri said the habit of reading and the accumulation of knowledge constitute the basis of human progress.

“We are trying to bring everyone to read. We think books are the main source of building a civilisation, building a country. Without knowledge and books, you cannot build anything.”

 We think books are the main source of building a civilisation, building a country. Without knowledge and books, you cannot build anything.”

 – Ahmad Al Amiri | Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority

 

The book fair also does not stifle any discourse or book, he pointed out.

“There is no censorship. See, you cannot fight thought. You need to fight [negative] thought with [positive] thought. You don’t fight thought with anything else than that. The minute you say something is banned, people will go and buy it. You are only going to make it more popular,” Al Amiri said.

Complaints

To encourage reading – as well as sales – publishers or exhibitors at the fair have been asked by the authority to sell their books at a 25 per cent discount. Al Amiri said customers can complain to the authority, which keeps an office at the fair, if they have reason to believe they have been overcharged for a book. Most of the books and their listed prices can be found on the official book fair app, titled “Sharjah Int’l Book Fair”, which is free to download, he added.

The fair will see popular authors signing books – over 200 titles will be signed – launching new books or new versions of their published works. All participating authors this year have at least one title that is available for purchase during the 11-day event. Fans get an opportunity to meet their favourite writers, Al Amiri said.

 See, you cannot fight thought. You need to fight [negative] thought with [positive] thought. You don’t fight thought with anything else than that.”

 – Ahmad Al Amiri | Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority

 

The proportion of stands selling English books, including other non-Arabic books, has reached 45 per cent at the fair. Novels continue to dominate the genre of most popular purchases, Al Amiri said.

Bus shuttle services

This year’s fair is poised to be even bigger and busier. To manage the crowds, traffic and parking issues, the book fair, in association with Sharjah traffic police and the municipality, will provide all necessary arrangements, Al Amiri said. There will be dedicated parking for vehicles of people of determination; an overflow parking area near the Chamber of Commerce and Industry; free shuttle buses from that zone to the fair and back, free bus transport to the fair from gathering points in Dubai (locations and details to be announced soon); police patrols and officers to assist pedestrians and manage traffic flow. There will also be a paid valet parking service.

In the future, a multi-storey parking building is expected to come up near Expo Centre, Al Amiri said. On average, 50,000 to 60,000 people visit the fair every day, most arriving by car, he added.

Last year, it was reported that the fair would be moving to a new, bigger home outside Sharjah city, not far from the intersection of Maliha Road and Emirates Road. However, it appears the book fair will continue to be hosted at the Expo Centre.

 The minute you say something is banned, people will go and buy it. You are only going to make it more popular.”

 – Ahmad Al Amiri | Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority

 

“We are not going to shift. Expo Centre will be expanding next year, I know there is an expansion coming. It’s a good thing [to be hosted at Expo Centre]. Most of the people coming to the fair are walking there from the buildings around the Expo Centre,” Al Amiri said.

Spread across more than 14,600 square metres, this year’s edition will feature almost 400 guests from nearly 50 countries who will take part in more than 2,600 events.

Who’s coming?

Ali Ghadeer – Novelist
Ahmad Murad – Author
Ali Al Sitrawi – Poet/Journalist
Anoop Menon – Actor
Asha Parekh – Author
Ayesha Al Basri – Poet/Novelist
Bina Shah – Author
Burhan Sonmez – Author/Activist
Derek O’Brien – Author/Politician
Dr Abdullah Al Washmi – Poet
Dr Ahmad Yousuf – Academic
Dr Damu – Chef
George Onakoor – Author
Gassan Masood – Actor
Gulzar – Poet/lyricist/Filmmaker
Hema Malini – Actress
Ebrahim Nasrallah – Novelist
Jairam Ramesh – Politician
Khalid Mohammad – Film Director
Lang Leav – Author
Maha Khan – Author
Niklas Ekstedt – Chef
R. Madhavan – Actor
Rajdeep Sardesai – Author/Journalist
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra – Filmmaker
Sagarika Ghose – Author/Journalist
Sarfaraz Manzoor – Author/Journalist
Sinan Antwan – Poet/Novelist
Suood Al Sanousi – Novelist
Tayseef Khalaf – Novelist
Vikas Swarup – Novelist
Wasim Akram – Cricketer
Zeina Hachem Beck – Poet

Book fair at a glance

Runs November 1 to 11
Held at Expo Centre Sharjah
Entry free of charge, open to all
1,650+ publishers from 60 countries coming
1.5 million books on sale

Did you know?

Last year, the fair hosted more than 2.31 million visitors, breaking all previous records. The volume of book sales at the 2016 edition of the fair reached Dh176 million, the highest ever in its 35-year history.

Source: Gulf News

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