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The Algerian connection
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 18 - 01 - 2018

The Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF, 27 January-10 February) is back. With the widest range of titles and events targeting the whole family on political, literary, scientific, religious and historical topics, it promises to be as popular as ever. A total of 848 publishers from 27 (15 Arab) countries are participating. The round is dedicated to the late author Abdel-Rahman Al-Sharqawi (1920-1987) and its guest of honour is Algeria.
According to Algerian Ambassador Farid Al-Dahman, who remembered Egypt being the Algiers Book Fair's guest of honour in 2016 and emphasised the two countries' strong links, 70 Algerian publishers are presenting 4,000 titles and 20 Algerian writers will have events at the fair. On the occasion Algeria is also honouring the name of filmmaker Youssef Chahine, whose Djamila l'Algérienne (1958) celebrated the great Algerian freedom fighter and actor Ezzat Al-Alaili, who took part in such Algerian films as Ahmed Rachedi's Tabunat Al-Sayed Fabre (1983) as well as such luminaries as Gaber Asfour, Zahi Hawwas and Ahmed Said.
According to the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO) Director Haitham Al-Hag, this round's slogan is “Soft power”, a reference to Egypt's cultural influence in the Arab world and beyond: “The 49th CIBF will delve into the different meanings of soft power in the hope of helping Egypt resume its position of leadership in the region.” In this connection, CIBF will honour the names of singer Shadia, poets Zakaria Al-Heggawi and Ahmed Fouad Negm — among others — by naming venues after them. It will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of Naguib Mahfouz's Noble Prize, the 120th anniversary of the birth of Tawfik Al-Hakim and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gamal Abdel-Nasser. A children's book fair within the book fair occupies a large pavilion, while Al-Azhar is participating for the second year, with its Islamic Research Complex providing 100 new titles. With an eye on younger Egyptians, the Egyptian Union for Electronic Games is participating for the first time.
Al-Hag also pointed out that this year CIBF is being organised not by GEBO alone but by the whole Ministry of Culture, including the Cultural Palaces, the National Library and Archives and the Fine Arts Sector. Cultural Palaces Director Ahmed Awwad says there is a “tremendous programme” with performances from Halayeb and Shalateen among other highlights. National Library Director Ahmed Al-Shoki, for his part, announced the reprinting of the turn-of-the-century Al-Gamia magazine and a new competition for best heritage book. The Youth and Sports Ministry too is participating with a concert by its orchestra, while the ministries of education and higher education are holding Reading Week towards the end of CIBF, to coincide with the start of the second term.
According to Adel Al-Masri, the head of the Egyptian Publishers Union, books will be available at a 30-40 per cent discount (thanks in part to a five per cent reduction on the pavilion rent fee). Al-Hag expects there will be five million visitors this year, with an increase of one million since last year.


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