The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair will return in May under a hybrid model blending in-person and digital events.
As part of his closing remarks at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) revealed plans are under way to bring back the book fair in a safe and considered manner.
“This year, we're going to have our first balanced book fair,” he said.
“Probably 70 per cent of it is going to be online and then the rest is going to basically be live here in Abu Dhabi.
“We believe that is a balanced approach for 2021, and that can change in 2022 and 2023.”
The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair will run from Sunday, May 23 to Saturday, May 29 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec).
It remains to be seen if the ceremonies for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, normally running as part of the book fair, will go ahead physically this year.
Hope for a struggling industry
The event's return should be met with relief from a struggling publishing industry, which saw major book fairs including London, Paris and Abu Dhabi scrapped in 2020 in the wake of the pandemic.
The industry's recovery began last November with the Sharjah International Book Fair going ahead with a mix of in-person and digital events.
The successful staging of the fair provided a model for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature to emulate.
In February, the event also adopted hybrid model, staggered across three weekends in various Dubai venues, including Alserkal Avenue.
The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair’s resumption also follows the revival of the capital's conference and events sector.
Safety measures were in place to protect public health, including the mandatory wearing of masks, strict social distancing guidelines, daily sanitation of exhibition halls, in addition to thermal scanners at entrances and isolation rooms for those requiring treatment.
A blueprint for the world
With the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair following the reopening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi in June 2020, Al Mubarak hopes the high safety standards set in the UAE provide a way forward for the international and creative industries to forge ahead during these challenging times.
"It is a heavily opportunistic time right now," he said at the summit.
"In Abu Dhabi, the first initiative to open up any of our ecosystems, and not just cultural, was the museums. And we opened them up as safely as possible and that's a blueprint we want to share with the world.”
Held until Wednesday, and organised by DCT Abu Dhabi, Cultural Summit Abu Dhabi is an annual event bringing together global experts in the fields of design, heritage, media, public policy, technology and business for a series of speeches, panel discussions, case studies, artist talks and performances.