World’s largest floating book fair attracts 65,000 visitors in Egypt

Logos Hope is moored at Port Said, the ‘busiest port so far’ globally since Covid pandemic

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The world’s largest floating book fair has received more than 65,000 visitors in its first 10 days after docking at Egypt's Port Said.

Logos Hope, which travels the world with more than 5,000 titles on board, opened to the public in the Mediterranean port city on January 4 and will conclude on Saturday.

“Ever since we reopened after Covid, this has been the busiest port so far,” Port Said project coordinator, Sebastian Moncayo, who is from Ecuador, told The National.

The Logos and Doulos ships, operated by German non-profit group GBA — meaning Good Books for All — have visited more than 150 countries and welcomed 49 million people on board since 1970.

In March 2020, during the Covid pandemic, the ships were closed for more than a year.

Since restarting in July 2021, Logos Hope has travelled to several Caribbean islands, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia, Spain, Malta, Albania, Montenegro and Cyprus before making its way to the Middle East.

The ship was in Beirut in the last two weeks of December, attracting 56,000 visitors, and will arrive in Aqaba, Jordan, on January 25.

It will be in the UAE for several weeks, arriving in Ras Al Khaimah on March 27, docking in Dubai from April 11 to 23 and finishing in Abu Dhabi from May 10 to June 12. Trips to Bahrain, Qatar and Oman will follow.

Mr Moncayo, who has been onboard Logos Hope since September 2019, arrived in Port Said seven weeks before the ship as part of its advanced preparation team.

He said the response in Egypt has been “overwhelming”, with an average of 7,000 visitors per day.

The last time Logos Hope docked at Port Said was in November and December 2010.

“A lot of people remember the visit, which is amazing because now they’re coming and they’re showing us pictures they took the last time,” Mr Moncayo said.

“Many of them were single. Now they’re married and they’re bringing their kids. There are people who say, ‘Oh, I was six years old and now I’m 18 and I remember the vessel’.”

Mr Moncayo said the ship attracts families and large groups of schoolchildren as well as lots of people aged 18 to 35.

Logos Hope has a unit equivalency system, so books do not need to be repriced when moving to a different country and currency. In Europe, 100 units was equal to two euros ($2.16), while in Egypt, 100 units is equal to 60 Egyptian pounds ($2.03).

There is a “huge collection” of books available for 100 units, while the average price is between 100 and 400 units, or 60 to 240 pounds. The entrance fee is five pounds ($0.17).

“It has to do, as well, with the economy of the country. The prices that we had in Malta, they were not the same prices that we have here, or the same prices that we had in Sierra Leone,” Mr Moncayo said.

“For us, we are non-profit, so we are truly not after money, and I think people can testify to that.”

The crew of Logos Hope consists of 330 volunteers from 60 countries. It also hosts cultural performances, offers language lessons and organises service projects.

In Egypt, the team has visited orphanages in Port Said and Cairo, donated books and led events, such as a beach clean-up and a bicycle race.

“We’re using every opportunity we have to connect with locals,” Mr Moncayo said.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 2:14 PM
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