From cultural exhibitions, discount literature, to exploring heritage from around the globe, it’s a year of firsts at this year’s book fair.
The 49th annual Cairo International Book Fair, the oldest and largest of its kind in the Arab world, has officially kicked off on the 27th of January, opening its doors to all enthusiasts of literature, culture, arts, and history from all corners of the country till the 15th of February. This year, however, a slew of new occurrences is adding an extra layer of excitement and entertainment to the already monumental event.
This year’s guest of honour is Algeria, in response to the country hosting Egypt in a similar event. Algerian literature permeates the shelves and exhibits of the fair this year, with many authors and cultural icons of the country taking part. This year’s honourary character is the late great literary, lawyer, journalist, and playwright Abdelrahman El-Sharkawy, whose works mirror the strong bond that Egypt and Algeria share.
This year, Yemeni literature has established a substantial foothold at the fair; with a large number of Yemeni works, covering a wide variety of topics and themes from Yemen and the Arab world, finding their place on shelves and displays at the fair. This initiative comes as a form of cultural resistance according to Yemeni Minister of Culture, Marwan Dammag, who emphasized the importance of freeing the minds of a people before freeing a country of its misfortunes, alluding to the turbulent times Yemen is currently going through.
In a first of its kind, a tent entirely devoted to the rich folklore and culture of Egypt’s southern Halayeb and Shalateen has gleefully garnered the attention of fair-goers. With men and women of the culturally vibrant area coming all the way to the fair to showcase their heritage through song, dance, and handicrafts from the area. The tent has been met with positive reception, with fair-goers and officials hoping for more examples of southern Egyptian heritage to take place in future fairs.
Culture On a Budget
In an effort to raise awareness about the benefits and pleasures of reading, a section of the fair is dedicated to selling books at remarkably low prices like 50 piastres to EGP 1. The books include literary works, novels, and texts from around the Arab region, in the hopes that books would soon find their way back to the hands of the people.
Far East Treasures
Over at the Chinese side of things, works of literature from across the far east are making cultural waves at the fair this year, with a litany of Chinese authors, poets, and philosophers having their works up for grabs. Whether you’re interested in learning more about Chinese heritage in Arabic or English, or having access to lexicons and language education guides to help get accustomed to the intricacies of Chinese languages, this year’s fair has you covered.