'We truly believe in the power of books': Sharjah's tenure as World Book Capital leaves lasting legacy

The emirate has celebrated its many achievements in a virtual closing ceremony

The legacy of the emirate's time as Sharjah World Book Capital will be enshrined in the soon-to-be-opened House of Wisdom. Foster + Partners
Powered by automated translation

The chapter is closed but the story continues.

That’s the parting message from Sharjah, as the emirate completes its year-long reign as the Unesco World Book Capital.

In a virtual ceremony held on Wednesday, April 22, the organising committee celebrated its achievements and the initiatives held over the past 12 months.

The results of such programmes can be found today as we isolate at home with our favourite books, according to Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, head of the advisory committee of the Sharjah World Book Capital (SWBC).

“As most of you have already seen, social media platforms are now packed with countless stories from around the world about people recommending books and reading as one of the most productive ways to spend time and increase mental resilience during this tough period of self-isolation,” she said during the closing ceremony.

“These stories warm our hearts here in Sharjah. They remind us that our consistent strategy of embedding the love of books and reading within each layer of our social fabric is the right one.”

From '1001 Nights' to calligraphy exhibitions

Sheikha Bodour's comments allude to the many far-reaching initiatives launched in the emirate as part of its designation as World Book Capital.

Ever since it was awarded the title in April last year, the city wasted no time in celebrating the written word. It launched its campaign with a spectacular theatre production of 1001 Nights: The Last Chapter. featuring a cast of more than 500 people from 25 countries, backed by a 51-piece international orchestra.

'1001 Nights: The Last Chapter' artists perform at the opening ceremony of Sharjah as Unesco World Book Capital 2019. Satish Kumar / The National
'1001 Nights: The Last Chapter' artists perform at the opening ceremony of Sharjah as Unesco World Book Capital 2019. Satish Kumar / The National

The campaign continued over the next 12 months with varied events tailored to everyone from children and families to seasoned bookworms. This included the Kan Ya ma Kan book donation campaign in May, followed by a number of popular mobile beach libraries spread around Sharjah's sandy shores in June.

There was a three-month exhibition of the evolution of Arabic calligraphy at the Sharjah Calligraphy Museum which concluded in October, as well as a celebration marking World Youth Day in August, key appearances at the Sharjah International Storytelling Festival in September and the mammoth Sharjah International Book Fair in November.

With the last major outdoor event being The Used Book Fair, which was held at Al Nakheel Park and ended on March 1, the SWBC then focused attention on spreading a love of reading online.

Sharjah World Book Capital created mobile libraries across the emirate's beaches. Courtesy Sharjah World Book Capital
Sharjah World Book Capital created mobile libraries across the emirate's beaches. Courtesy Sharjah World Book Capital

In what is a generous parting gift to the region, on April 22 it teamed up with the Arabic audiobook site Kitab Sawti to grant free three-month premium memberships on the platform for up to 5,000 people.

Explaining the emirate’s detailed approach, Sheikha Bodour said the aim was to use literature to foster a more cohesive society.

“We truly believe in the power of books to connect us with each other,” she said. “We want books to help us know each other more and to bridge the gaps created by misconceptions and misunderstanding.”

A literary legacy: The House of Wisdom

With the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur set to take over as the next World Book Capital, Sheikha Bodour said the memories and achievements of Sharjah's tenure will be enshrined in the emirate's newest literary venue, The House of Wisdom.

The state-of-the-art library and culture centre, which is close to completion, will span 1.2 hectares and house more than 100,000 books when opened.

House of Wisdom Sharjah will celebrate the emirate's status as World Book Capital 2019
House of Wisdom Sharjah will celebrate the emirate's status as World Book Capital 2019

Describing it as “a cultural milestone", Sheikha Bodour said the House of Wisdom “will help us go to the next level of our cultural development journey with a sense of renewed commitment and clear focus on the future".

______________

Read more:

1001 Nights: The Last Chapter – the Sharjah theatre production set to reinvent the genre of performing arts

______________