Sharjah will close its International Book Fair on Sunday, an event that grows every year and which, says Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, serves to establish close connections with cultures around the world

Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri: "Culture can unite us all"

PHOTO/ANTONIA CORTÉS - Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority

The 41st edition of the International Book Fair will close its doors on 13 November. Hundreds of journalists from all over the world are reporting on this great literary showcase which brings together 2,213 publishers from 95 countries. Thousands of people visit the Sharjah Expo Centre every day and take part in its interesting and intense programme of activities (conferences, round tables, recitals, workshops, theatre, music, author signings, storytelling, etc.) aimed at all audiences. In 2021, the number of visitors reached 1.6 million, a figure that is expected to be exceeded this year.

Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri

Founded in 1982 by the ruler of Sharjah, Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, it is organised by the Book Authority, chaired by Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri, with whom Atalayar, along with four other journalists, was able to talk. The role of culture "in bringing people together", the importance of this fair, the most important in the Arab world, "which is growing every year", and which creates "close connections with cultures all over the world", the evolution of this event, the initiatives carried out to get children to read, the relations established with many countries, such as Spain, last year's guest of honour, and specifically with Casa Árabe in Madrid and Cordoba, and its forthcoming participation as guest of honour at another prestigious international fair, the Guadalajara Fair in Mexico, were some of the topics addressed at this meeting.

Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri
Culture as a union

The Emirate of Sharjah is strongly committed to culture, with large investments and a notable effort, in fact, it is known as the "capital of culture". Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri speaks with pride about this fair, which began four decades ago and has become the most important worldwide in terms of buying and selling copyrights in 2022, and undoubtedly the largest in the Arab world. He also talks about the importance of the word, spread for thousands of years, "we are very oral", he says, while he recalls the origin and tribes and expresses how they spread the word of knowledge, information, love, peace... "Culture can unite us all, without borders of religion or politics". 

And this is one of their missions, to try to spread and explain their culture to the world, as they did when they were invited to Spain, Brazil and will do now in Guadalajara (Mexico). 

With regard to the evolution of this fair, the president of the Book Authority is confident that it will also grow in this edition and wanted to differentiate this fair from others in the sense that "it is based on relationships rather than on business or money". It is a fair of exchange, of being face to face. In this sense, he recalled the Arab Publishers Conference, also held during these days, which has seen an increase in the number of participants to over a thousand.

Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri

Sharjah's support for the publishing sector is more than a reality, hence the injection of 4.5 million dirhams that the emirate's ruler allocated to publishers, the large investment he made for the purchase of books for a total of 10 million dirhams, and the opening of the book fair after the pandemic, the first in the world. "Governments have a great responsibility to disseminate knowledge and support the publishing industry," says this great defender of culture. 

What is clear is that Sharjah, its International Book Fair, is growing year by year, and looks to the world at large. Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri does not hesitate to affirm that the fair "is opening the doors for the West to meet with Africa, with India, with Asia... Our fair is not European, it is not American... it is international". And speaking of Africa, after questions from two journalists from this continent, he explains how in this meeting there are more than 25 African authors and the support of his emirate for Africa, for African publishers, so that they can continue to grow, so that the market can expand, so that they can read, and not only in Arabic-speaking countries, but also in the south or even in the eastern part of the continent.

Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri

Enjoying literature, establishing close connections with cultures around the world, supporting translations and exchanging knowledge and cultural heritage were some of the other messages that the president of the Book Authority launched in this cordial and close meeting. 

Encouraging reading

We were also interested in the extensive programme of activities aimed at children and young people, not only to encourage them to read, but also to bring out their creativity, have fun learning science and become more aware of the need for a sustainable world. A programme that not only targets children but the whole family, says Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri, who recalled the need for them to read, to retain knowledge, and the commitment to this through, for example, the Reading Festival or the many activities carried out in public libraries. "The United Arab Emirates was the only country in the world to have a year dedicated to reading," he said, an initiative that was carried out in 2018.

Sharjah, guest of honour in Guadalajara

Ahmed bin Rakkad also talks about the Guadalajara International Book Fair as Sharjah is the guest of honour at this year's edition. Sharjah will be represented in the Mexican city by some 200 people, including publishers, writers, artists, musicians... And, of course, a stand full of books, where more than 50 titles translated into Spanish can be found. In this fair, which will open its doors on 26 November, not only the Arab Emirates will be represented, but also "the Arab and cultural tradition".  

Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri

The president of the Book Authority claims to have some surprises in store for Latin America, although he leaves them up in the air, as he says he is not yet in a position to announce them. Costa Rica and Argentina join other countries in the region with which, he assures us, "we are working closely". 

The 41st edition of the SIBF, with Italy as guest country, will bring the curtain down in two days with the satisfaction of a job well done, of seeing how, once again, interest is growing among the public, exhibitors and authors, how its aisles are filled with people, schoolchildren of all ages, national and international writers, publishers exchanging experiences and ideas, copyright sales, dreams fulfilled, and imagination. An edition that will give way to another one full of surprises and that, although, for the moment, nothing has been announced, it is already prepared. We will keep an eye out for news from the "capital of culture": Sharjah.