Sharjah's year as Unesco World Book Capital launches tonight with 1001 Nights: The Last Chapter and it is going to be a joyous 12 months for book-lovers in the emirate. A number of exciting literary events are taking place each month, including a country-wide book collection for underprivileged children, first-rate exhibitions and a storytelling festival.
We've selected three unmissable events, but don't forget to browse the extensive programme, seek out the strange and the unfamiliar and enjoy a year of broadening your literary horizons – just remember to set aside time to actually read some books.
‘Kan Ya ma Kan’ Book Donation Campaign
When: May 5-25
Where: Al Majaz Amphitheatre
Part of an initiative by the UAE Board on Books for Young People to provide reading material to children in countries riven by war and natural disaster, this campaign calls on people to donate good-quality books to be redistributed to those most in need. Scour your shelves, be honest with yourself about the books you really want to keep, and bring as many as possible to the Al Majaz Amphitheatre.
The Mobile Beach Library
When: June 15
Where: Sharjah beaches
What better way to spend an afternoon than stretched out on the sand with a favourite book? Clear the diary on June 15 and head to any of Sharjah’s beaches, where you will find mobile libraries lending books for free. The libraries will be well-stocked with books of all genres for every age, so rally your family and friends and make a day of it.
Exhibition: Evolution of Arabic Calligraphy
When: July 7-October 15
Where: Sharjah Calligraphy Museum
Trace the evolution of Arabic fonts through paintings and written texts. Arabic calligraphy remains one of the most elegant art forms and this show will celebrate the very best practitioners of it through the centuries.
Exhibition: The Silk Road
When: From July 19
Where: Maraya Art Centre – Al Qasba
The Silk Road was a trade route linking the East and the West, allowing for the sharing of ideas and the mixing of cultures. This exhibition, which was a hit at the recent Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, recreates the Silk Road with camels, music and caravans of people. Interactive activities along the route will keep the children entertained, while information about four key cities along the route – Xi’an, Turfan, Samarkand and Baghdad – will get the grey matter working.
Celebrating World Youth Day
When: August 12
Where: Emirates Publishers Association’s Office, Sharjah Publishing City Theatre
The Emirates Publishers Association will invite writers to come and speak to the UAE’s young literati about how to become an author or find a job in the publishing industry.
Sharjah International Storytelling Festival
When: September 26-28
Where: Expo Centre
Launched in 2001, this uplifting festival celebrates the oral storytelling tradition. As with all literary events in Sharjah this year, it should be bigger and better than ever before.
Sharjah International Book Fair
When: October 30-November 9
Where: Expo Centre
Always a major event in the publishing calendar, the Sharjah International Book Fair brings together publishers, authors, artists and filmmakers from around the world. Stock up on books, feast on literary talks and dive into conversations with like-minded souls. Not to be missed.
Sharjah Arabic Poetry Festival
When: Jan 5-10
Where: Cultural Palace
Poets from the region will perform and take part in seminars in this annual exchange of ideas, which will be given an extra boost this year due to Sharjah’s status as World Book Capital. Old and new collide, as local poetic traditions are celebrated and the next generation of poets are given a platform to express themselves.
The Used Book Fair
When: February 26-March 1
Where: Al Nakheel park, Khalid Lagoon Corniche
There are few things better than finding a gem of a second-hand book at a pinch of the original price. With books ranging from Dh2 to Dh200, this book fair is the place to fill your arms with paperbacks, which you probably won't read but will at least look good on your bookshelf.
Exhibition: Hans Christian Andersen
When: February 26-April 25
Where: Sharjah Art Museum
The Danish writer responsible for some of the world's best-known fairy-tales, including The Little Match Girl, The Snow Queen and The Ugly Duckling, is celebrated in this exhibition featuring paintings and original texts.
For more information, visit: www.sharjahwbc.com