This year’s Abu Dhabi International Book Fair will be a special hub of philosophical exchanges as it hosts China, the home of Confucius, and honours one of this region’s most known scholars and philosophers, The Great Sheikh Muḥyiddin Ibn Arabi.
China’s literary participation in the 27th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) will be the country’s largest in foreign book fairs to date, and its pavilion is expected to reflect its cultural depth and weight, with special participation of Chinese publishers, elite authors, artists and others from all fields of creativity.
“We hope the public will gain a better understanding of our culture and its many features,” said Xiao Guanglu, the representative for China as ‘Guest of Honour’.
Speaking at the pre-event press conference at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Mr Xiao listed some of the activities to be held inside the Chinese pavilion from April 26 to May 2.
“The Chinese Pavilion will be 650-square-metres, and there will be famous Chinese authors attending as well as we will feature 3,400 titles, and 5400 copies in Arabic, English and Chinese as well as over 200 delegations and 100 publishers,” he says.
Alongside folkloric musical performances, one of the special features will be a “historic” journey of the land that invented paper, and its printing history.
“You will see the chinese historic role in publishing, from ancient times to the modern times,” says Mr Xiao. “We hope to impress you.”
The theme of this year’s book fair is You’re The Book and through its cultural programmes there will be a focus on different aspects of the UAE’s cultural landscape through sessions like The UAE’s Generations of Creative Writing between Arabic and English, Narration in the UAE - the Brilliance of the Female Voice and a seminar entitled Emirati Poetry and Displaying the Emirati Song, which recounts the experiences of great Emirati poets whose poems were turned into songs that shaped the memories of generations.
“This year’s book fair will be even bigger,” said Saif Ghobash, the Director General of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), organisers of the annual book fair.
“I am pleased to share with you today our success in achieving an increase in reserved space at ADIBF, to reach 35,148 square metres, with a total of 1,320 exhibitors, an increase of 60 exhibitors from last year, representing 65 countries from around the world, and the publication of more than 500,000 titles from more than 30 languages. This year’s programme will also feature over 800 activities, discussion sessions and seminars,” he added.
This year’s book fair will also highlight The Audiobook Experiences, which for many years have been helping the blind and the visually impaired. The Audiobook Experience was launched in the capital more than 20 years ago as one of the first in the region and most professional and respected Arab experiences.
The Cultural Programme will also pay homage to the life and works of the philosopher and spiritual teacher Ibn Arabi (1165–1240 AD, 560–638 AH) in his capacity as Personality of the Year.
Also known as al-Shaikh al-Akbar (the Great Shaikh), Ibn Arabi was a Muslim scholar, mystic, poet and philosopher of Andalusian origin. He was born in Murcia and his father’s family claimed descent from the legendary Arabian poet Hatim al-Tai (died 578) known for his extreme generosity.
He traveled extensively, and some of his major works on Sufism is Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (The Meccan revelations), an extensive encyclopedia comprising 560 chapters.
The main subjects covered include metaphysics, cosmology, spiritual anthropology, the relationship of science and religion, psychology, the spiritual interpretation of Islamic rituals, and jurisprudence. Other works include The Ringstones of Wisdom (also translated as The Bezels of Wisdom), or Fusus al-Hikam.
Composed during the later period of Ibn ‘Arabi’s life, the work is sometimes considered his most important and can be characterized as a summary of his teachings and mystical beliefs.
At the event, Tunisian singer and songwriter Ghalia Benali will talk about her experience in performing Ibn Arabi's poems in a seminar entitled Love is My Only Faith, and she will sing using ancient Arabic singing style.
It is also The Kalima Project’s 10th anniversary, a translation initiative, which Abdullah Majid Al Ali, the Acting Executive Director of the National Library at TCA Abu Dhabi, helped “bridge” cultures.
“It is a pioneering Arab cultural project and a bridge connecting the different cultures of the world and Arab culture.” He also made the announcement that the Kalima project will also be organising the 5th Abu Dhabi International Translation Conference, date to be announced.
• The 27th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair begins on April 26 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). Doors will open to the public at 11am before being open thereafter from 9am to 10pm daily, except on Fridays when it's open from 4pm to 10pm. Go to www.adbookfair.com for details