Readers seek rare gems and atmosphere at Abu Dhabi book fair

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ABU DHABI // Some came to buy rare books, others to watch illustrators work, but many hoped to simply soak up the atmosphere at the 26th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and inaugurated on Wednesday by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Booksellers from around the world have once again made the emirate their home for the week.

Emiratis and expatriates alike found their way through alleys of books at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, while parents were seen pushing prams with one hand and dragging a trolley full of books with the other.

Ayesha Ali, a 25-year-old Emirati, said she went to the fair every year to shop for books.

“Sometimes you get speciality books here. I usually buy books online, but coming to the book fair gives me the chance to roam around and look at the books before buying them.”

One Abu Dhabi resident said she was disappointed by a lack of new collections at some stalls.

“They haven’t done anything new recently. I come here every year. I used to buy many books. Earlier, I would buy at least 10 books,” said Joanne, a resident of Abu Dhabi.

Rare books translated into English that were available at government stalls, however, were among the items worth looking at, she said.

“Collections of Emirati fairy tales and books on the history of words and their origins are a treat,” the expatriate said.

Badr Al Hage from Lebanon was selling rare books at the fair for the third year. Books dating from the 15th century were available at his stall, called Folios Limited.

He started as a collector, but decided to make his hobby a business. He has now been in bookselling for 30 years.

Also on display was one of the earliest printed copies of the Quran, which Mr Al Hage was selling for £8,500 (Dh44,400), and a book on falconry published in 1567 priced at £37,500 – Dh200,400.

Mr Al Hage’s shop specialises in the Islamic world and its history, art, travel and religion. The books he had on display were printed in Europe, Beirut or Cairo.

“Private collectors here are very keen, and there is interest in good material,” said “Mr Al Hage. “People in the UAE are interested in books on the Gulf or travel to pilgrimage or Arabian Peninsula.”

Emirati visitors Khawla Darwish and May Al Marri were at the book fair to “enjoy the atmosphere”.

“I started coming when I was younger and I come here each time. There are many rare books here that are not available throughout the year,” said Ms Darwish. “We get books in different languages, especially books translated in to English.”

“You get books from the region as well as international publications,” said Ms Al Marri.

Atuar Rahman, area manager of Al Mutanabbi Bookshop, which has a stall at the book fair, said they come here every year, but hoped that more visitors came as the fair continued.

“Today not many people have turned up. However, I am hopeful that more people will turn up soon,” he said.

The fair runs at Adnec from 9am to 10pm until May 3.