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All the fun of the Book Fair
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 01 - 2017

Under the slogan “Youth and the Culture of the Future”, the 48th Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) opens to the public today and continues at the Nasr City Fair Ground until 10 February.
At a press conference earlier this week, head of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO) Haitham Al-Hag said that this year the CIBF brought together 670 publishers (451 Egyptian, 200 Arab, 13 foreign and six African) from 35 countries (16 from the Middle East, six from Africa and 13 from foreign countries), in addition to 119 second-hand book-dealers from the Souq Al-Azbakeya in Cairo.
Morocco is this year's guest of honour and is the focus of seminars, lectures, poetry readings and folk performances, as well as documentary screenings.
Moroccan Ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Al-Tazi said that Morocco and Egypt had deep historical and cultural ties and the participation of Morocco in this year's fair had brought the country's main publishing houses, government bodies, and academic and research institutions to Cairo.
Almost 1,000 books would be available in the Moroccan pavilion, he said, and 60 Moroccan intellectuals, poets, and novelists would be participating in this year's fair. A documentary highlighting the diversity and richness of Moroccan literary production would also be screened.
Al-Hag told Al-Ahram Weekly that this year's slogan reflected the fair's policy to make more resources available to young people. “This is not only within the framework of the government's policy to bolster the connections between the state and young people, but also because of last year's three million visitors of whom 65 per cent were young people,” he said.
“This means that young people are the CIBF's largest group of customers, and therefore we need to take more care of them and reach out to them to find out more about their thoughts and goals,” Al-Hag said.
He added that this year's fair would host 750 events at its cultural café, at its author and book series, and at its open theatre focussing on the underground music scene. There would also be seminars, performances, folk dancing, lectures and a special children's book fair.
The cultural figure celebrated at this year's fair is the late poet Salah Abdel-Sabour, himself once the head of GEBO and one of the pioneers of modern Arabic poetry. Lectures, seminars and discussions will focus on the role of young people in developing the country, the influence of social media on book markets, Egypt and water, and corruption in Egypt.
Recently published books such as Shubra by novelist Mohamed Afifi, Beit Al-Senari by Amar Ali Hassan and A Dialogue With My Terrorist Friend by Fatma Naoot would also be discussed in the fair's cultural café.
Naoot was accused in 2014 of insulting Islam after describing the ritual of slaughtering sheep and distributing meat to the poor during Eid Al-Adha as a “massacre” on a social-networking site. She denied that her post was meant as blasphemy, but stressed that the ritual of slaughtering sheep was harmful to animals. The Appeals Court sentenced her to a six-month suspended jail sentence.
Egypt's Bedouin were the focus of the Beit Al-Arab section in this year's fair, Al-Hag said, adding that a fine art exhibition illustrating the Bedouin was to be held, as well as lectures, workshops on Bedouin handicrafts, and an exhibition on Sinai traditional costumes. A Bedouin night will also be added.
The prices of new books from GEBO have increased by 10 to 15 per cent, but discounts are available on older ones. University students can qualify for discounts that can reach 90 per cent on all the books at the fair on the production of their IDs.
Al-Hag stressed that the CIBF was committed to protecting intellectual copyright. Any exhibits found to infringe on copyright would be immediately removed, the pavilions in which they appeared closed, and the exhibitor responsible for their display prosecuted, he said.
“The fair will see a host of prizes, including awards for the 10 best books published in 2016. LE10,000 prizes for short stories and novels, vernacular and standard Arabic poetry, works of science, politics, economics, anthropology and sociology and children's books will be presented by the minister of culture. And lifetime achievement awards will be presented on a daily basis,” Al-Hag said.


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