The Sharjah International Book Fair began on Wednesday, marking one of the first literary events in the region to completely reprise an in-person format.
Taking place until November 13, the fair is being held at the Expo Centre Sharjah under the theme "there is always a right book". It is free to attend.
For almost two years, book festivals and fairs have had to take a bulk of their programming online as a way of adapting to pandemic measures and health concerns. This offered a welcome respite during periods of lockdown, and also expanded the reach of regional literary events. But there’s one thing you can’t emulate through virtual talks and gridded Zoom panel discussions: the experience of meeting some of the world’s leading writers in person, to have them sign a copy of their books.
More than 85 local and international literary figures are scheduled to take part in this year’s SIBF, including Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, Jnanpith Award-winner Amitav Ghosh, Algerian author Ahlam Mosteghanemi and The Pursuit of Happyness author Chris Gardner.
All of them are scheduled to appear in person at the event.
So if you’re planning on making your way to the Expo Centre to meet some of the authors, here are five things you need to know before your visit:
1. Download the app
To best navigate and make the most of the event, we recommend you download the SIBF smartphone app, available for iPhone and Android.
The app will give you immediate access to the fair’s programme, as well as a list of exhibitors. A search function also allows you to browse the fair’s book collection, providing detailed information on where you can find a particular title. You can also plan your itinerary and receive notifications about sessions you are interested in.
2. Find a Book Guide
The fair is hosting more than 1,600 publishers from around the world. To better help visitors navigate through the fair’s offerings, volunteers designated as Book Guides have been stationed around the site. With specialised knowledge of the range of titles at the fair, they can help in catering to or creating your reading list.
3. Visit the Spain pavilion
Spain is the guest of honour at this year’s fair. The country’s pavilion is hosting a range of talks and workshops with several Spanish talents, including a workshop led by Javier Gomez Santander and Diego Avalos, writers from the popular Netflix show Money Heist.
On that note, it is also worth visiting the pavilions of countries participating for the first time, including Cameroon, Colombia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
5. Children's workshops
The book fair includes a vibrant children’s programme with more than 355 scheduled activities, from tower-building challenges to a “Crazy Science School”.
Workshops in photography, art, leaf-printing and robotics catering for different ages are also being held across the 11-day event. More information on the workshops and their times is available on the SIBF app.
5. Cookery Corner
The SIBF has always been known for its robust cooking section. After a hiatus because of the pandemic, the section is once again offering live cooking masterclasses by world-renowned chefs and restaurateurs.
Some of the celebrity chefs taking part in the SIBF’s Cookery Corner programme include MasterChef India judge Kunal Kapur, Korean Food made Simple writer and host Judy Joo, founder of Zina’s Kitchen Zina Abboud, and Malaysian celebrity chef and television host Sherson Lian.