Timeframe: Sharjah International Book Fair's legacy of cultural exchange

The annual event celebrates 41 years of literacy and global connections

Sharjah International Book Fair in 2018. It has been going since 1981
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The Sharjah International Book Fair was opened 41 years ago this week by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, to promote cultural understanding and exchange through books and reading.

“Those of us who enjoy reading in the emirate of Sharjah are very keen to create a reading community and promote the benefits of reading among children," said Sheikh Dr Sultan in 2021. "For that reason, we provide the best, most suitable books for all the family. We believe that books must be available to all and from this concept we turn book fairs into an oasis of knowledge and enlightenment."

However, the success of the event did not always come easy. When the fair was first launched by six publishers in 1982, Sheikh Dr Sultan was advised to give up because of low attendance numbers. In 1990, it was cancelled due to the uncertainty in the region during the First Gulf War. The following year, SIBF successfully returned and attracted more than 476 publishing houses from 30 Arab and foreign countries.

Today, the book fair is one of Sharjah's top cultural movements and recorded 2.17 million visitors while hosting 2,213 publishers from around the world last year.

This year's fair – which runs until November 12 – celebrates South Korea as the Guest of Honour, showcasing the knowledge and cultural scene from the country with the theme "We Speak Books".

Khoula Al Mujaini, general co-ordinator of SIBF, said the theme "embodies SIBF’s comprehensive vision for the book and culture industry. It has evolved beyond an event for buying and selling books to become a global hub for exchanging expertise, ideas and knowledge.”

This year's event has attracted the highest number of participating countries since it started in 1981, with more than 2,000 publishers and exhibitors from 108 nations, both in the Arab and international spheres. They will collectively present an array of 1.5 million titles, all to be showcased at the Expo Centre Sharjah.

Updated: November 03, 2023, 6:02 PM