The 17th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was closed down yesterday, Saturday, with a beyond-expectation success.
The event had been inaugurated on 31st March by General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, patron of the book fair, who emphasized the global position the event has reached, and noted that the success of the book fair is another indication of the UAE capability of organizing exhibitions and conferences at high quality standards.
Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouie, Director General, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, underscored that this session of the book fair, organized by the Authority in collaboration with Frankfurt Book Fair at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, was amazingly successful, as more than 400 publishers from almost 50 countries took part in it, and it managed to attract thousands of leading personalities in the world of literature and culture, who presented through the discussion forum remarkable symposiums addressed to publishers, agents, distributors, librarians, translators and the general public; in addition to professional debates on important topics in literature, such as the 'Authors and Translators' and ‘Religious tolerance at our time’ sessions, and many important subjects, such as 'Reaching your Readers' and 'Audio Books'.
Al Mazrouie extended his thanks and appreciation to General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, for his kind patronage for the 17th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, and his paying attention to all its activities, and for his instructions to support the students’ purchases with 3 million Dirhams. He also extended his thanks and appreciation to H.E. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, for his constant follow-up to the development strategy of the event, which represents a serious cultural vision of presenting books and cultural and intellectual issues, and also communicating with all the varied segments of the general public.
Al Mazrouie stressed that Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed supports every cultural activity, considering that learning is the basis of progress; and he also considers the book fair a leading cultural and intellectual festivity that aims to show the latest works of authors, translators and publishers, and to provide for the general public the opportunity to meet writers and publishers and other knowledge industry specialists. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed emphasized that holding the book fair in Abu Dhabi every year complies with the growing position of this city as a centre for culture and sciences that supports all branches of literature and culture.
Al Mazrouie revealed that the 17th session of the book fair drew more than 400 thousand visitors, and 76 thousand of them came to the show on one day (last Thursday). The event had extensive coverage of local, Arab and international media and news agencies, in addition to the 'Show Daily' issued by the Authority which covered all activities and press conferences held during the book fair.
He also revealed that the fair’s total sales of paper and audio books and electronic publications exceeded 30 million Dirhams, including more than 23 million Dirhams of book sales. A larger exhibition area has been booked for the 2008 event (14,000 sq. m.) as most exhibitors booked larger areas for next year, and some of them booked areas 10 times larger than the areas they booked at the 2007 session. The organizing committee of the book fair will choose the best publishers according to precise standards, and will study the possibility of expanding the exhibition area again to contain all publishers willing to take part in the event.
Al Mazrouie finally stated that the next book fair will separate between displaying and selling publishers by providing special stands for each, in order to facilitate concluding deals and the meetings of Arab and foreign publishers. He also stressed that Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage is seeking to make Abu Dhabi International Book Fair the No. 1 among all book fairs in the Arab world, and to make it gain a high position among international book fairs worldwide. “The organizing committee of the event will work to provide better services for exhibitors in the next sessions, and publishers should abide by certain conditions, particularly for shipping books.” He concluded.
On the sidelines of the book fair many activities were held. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, had inaugurated the first regional meeting of Arab states on the 'Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Implementation and preparing inventory lists', and also the exhibition of the Masterpieces of Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The meeting, held by ADACH in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, and UNESCO Intangible Heritage Section, from 31st March to 3rd April, presented a collection of significant final recommendations that contribute to the safeguarding and protection of intangible heritage in the Arab states.
In the presence of a number of sheikhs and ministers, authors and intellectuals, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, distributed the awards to the winners of Sheikh Zayed Book Award. Dr. Basheir Mohammed Al Khadra grabbed Sheikh Zayed Development Award for his book 'Al Namat Al Nabawi Al Khalifi'. The children literature award went to Dr. Mohammed Ali Ahmed for his series 'Rihla ala al Waraq', while the literary and art awards went respectively to Waseeni Al Araj for his book 'The Prince' and Dr. Tharwat Akasha for his book 'Indian Art'. Mahmoud Zain Al Abdeen was proclaimed the winner in the young innovators category for his book 'Architecture of Ottoman Mosques', while George Zeinati won the translation award. Dennis Johnson Davis won the year's cultural personality award, while the awards for cultural technology and publishing and distribution were not given to anyone.
A poetry session with Mahmoud Darwish, who came to Abu Dhabi as one of the guests of Sheikh Zayed Book Award, was held at the National Theatre under the patronage of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, with a huge attendance which included a number of senior officials and intellectuals.
At a press conference attended by Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouie, Nashwa Al Rowaini, Dr. Ghassan Al Hasan and Ali Al Masoudi, the "Prince of Poets" project was launched by Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage after the great success of its "Million's Poet" project. The new competition will start on 2nd June 2007 and will last for 10 weeks. 35 poets will compete in three stages, and then the winner of the 1st place will get the title of "Prince of Poets" with a gold medal and one million Dirhams.
The ‘Emirates Foundation’ also announced at a press conference launching a prestigious new “International Prize for Arabic Fiction” which aims to reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing and to encourage wider readership of quality Arabic literature in the region and internationally. The Prize is also designed to encourage translation and publication of Arabic language literature into other major languages.
Publishers laud organization, vast exhibition area
Many of the publishers that participated in the 17th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair stressed that the amazing cultural development of Abu Dhabi caught the attention of the world through the great and unique projects that have been carried out in a record time to place Abu Dhabi amongst the world’s top cities. The publishers considered that Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was part of this genius strategy, and made its first new step, glowing with masterpieces of science and literature, on top of which the books that won Sheikh Zayed Book Award; in addition to the purchase vouchers distributed by instructions of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the vast area of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
Nabil Saleh, owner and manager of the University Book Shop, said “Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is a quality step in the Arab book exhibition industry, and very soon it will become the first in the Arab world and the second in the entire world. For the first time, publishers can book any area they want and the margin of freedom is so encouraging. The book fair succeeded to promote reading, and throughout its history we witnessed the great support of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to the event before, and the great support of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, now, in addition to the gift of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to students to encourage them to read. This year’s event also witnessed a very recognized activity; the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, which will motivate writers, intellectuals, creative people, publishers and distributors to produce more and more works.”
Hasan Yaghi, Manager of the Arab Cultural Centre, noted that “Abu Dhabi International Book Fair establishes for a new stage. Shifting to the new venue was necessary, and publishers and readers should get used to it. The only problem is that the transportation service is not available at the Exhibition Centre. Other than that, the place is nice and cozy, and the efforts of the organizers contribute a lot to the success of the event.”
Mazen Al Zarba, who is in charge of the stand of Obekan Book Shop, lauded the organization, stands, and large exhibition area of the book fair, which helped publishers to show their publications on wider areas. He also said “We are adhered to participating in Abu Dhabi International Book Fair every year. We have brought this year a large collection of titles and publications, 70% of which are books translated from German, English and French, in varied fields like management, politics, self-development, psychology, etc. We hope to see more publicity for next year’s event.”
Mohammed Rashad, Chairman of the Egyptian – Lebanese Publishing House and Al Dar Al Arabiyya Book Shop, said “We pay a special attention to children’s books; 33% of our production is for children in order to contribute to educating future generations. One of our products of children books, the series ‘A Journey on paper’ by Dr. Mohammed Ali Ahmed, has won the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Children Literature, and for several times we won the Prize of Suzan Mobarak for Children Literature. As an Arab publisher, I am proud of this book fair, which is as good and well-organized as similar events in Europe including Frankfurt Book Fair. I am also proud of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, and the kind attention of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who presented awards to the winners, which would help change the situation of Arab culture to the better. I don’t agree that it would be better to hold the book fair in downtown, because it needs a large area and the reader always seeks books. We hope that the book fair will provide in future the opportunity to sell and buy copyrights, interchange information, and show experiences at the same time.”
Nabil Marwa, owner of Al Intishar Al Arabi Est., stressed that selling books at the book fair is linked to the availability of good titles. “Since it was launched, I come every year to take part in Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, and that is what I will keep doing in future. This year, the book fair is distinguished with its vast exhibition area, good organization, and important accompanying cultural activities and seminars.” He added.
Ahmed Nassif, who is in charge of the stand of Dar Al Kitab Al Arabi for Publishing and Distribution, also lauded the organization and vast exhibition area of the book fair, and suggested building a number of hotels near the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, and arranging the stands of publishers according to their domains.
Ahmed Kamel, who is in charge of the stand of Tiba Est., considered that the great organization and number of participants, in addition to the clean huge place, make Abu Dhabi International Book Fair this year look remarkably different. “Moreover, the generous instructions of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to support the students’ purchases from the book fair gave the event a greater value, motivating schools and universities to organize field trips to the book fair and acquire books. I would suggest that publishers get direct support through buying books for school and university libraries.” He added.