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Two days later
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 05 - 01 - 2011

The 43rd Cairo International Book Fair is to open on 22 January, or is it? Nevine El-Aref finds out
Following a week of indecision, the 43rd round of the Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) will open on 22 January, two days before the usual opening date.
Early this week, when culture minister Shaker Abdel Hamid announced that the official inauguration of CIBF would be delayed to 1 February, Egyptian publishers and book lovers were fearful of a repeat of the 2011 scenario; they voiced strong objections.
At this time last year, officials kept confirming without a doubt that the 43th round of CIBF would take place as scheduled despite events indicated otherwise. A day before the opening, Egypt's January revolution broke out and the event was cancelled for the first time ever.
Attempts were by the ministry of culture to compensate publishers for losses incurred �ê" the Faisal Book Fair was organised last September, for example �ê" but nothing could be a substitute for the biggest and the most important fair in the Middle East.
This year the official reason for the initial delay was security: on the anniversary of the revolution, chaos elsewhere in the country might make it impossible to protect CIBF and its visitors.
Publishers would have none of it. In an objection statement issued by the Egyptian Publishers Union, union head Mohamed Rashad wrote that the ministry of culture's decision was taken unilaterally without consulting with the union or giving convincing reasons.
Rashad called on SCAF to interfere immediately to stop the delay in order to protect Egypt's publishing industry and the international reputation of CIBF.
The statement also pointed out that the army, having been well capable of protecting the parliamentary elections, it would have no trouble safeguarding CIBF.
"Inaugurating the CIBF on time is a promotion of Egypt's stability which in its turn will encourage tourists to return Egypt," the statement said, adding, "How is it that the police is able to safeguard football matches but not such a great cultural event?"
The delay of CIBF for two successive years, the statement added, would undermine the credibility of the fair and make it inconsistent with other regular Arab book fairs. "It is really a great loss," asserted Rashad, explaining that such a delay would force Arab and international publishers to withdraw from CIBF because of commitments to other fairs. They would also ask for the return of their participation fees and compensation for financial losses for the second time in a row. The statement concluded on a grave note:
"We, the Egyptian Publishers Union, object to the decision taken to delay the CIBF inauguration and the union is in permanent session until the problem is solved."
Ahmed Megahed, the head of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO), later announced that he would discuss the issue with the minister of culture, the cabinet and security officials in order to see to it the CIBF is opened on 22 January.
In collaboration with the culture committee at the press syndicate, activists have since launched a campaign to support the inauguration of CIBF on time, calling for hosting a round table at the syndicate to discuss the initiative.
On Tuesday night, Abdel Hamid announced that the CIBF is to be inaugurated on 22 January at the fair grounds in Nasr City and will last until 7 February.
Megahed, who appreciates the decision, told Al-Ahram Weekly that his efforts have finally bore fruit and both the minister of culture and the cabinet approved his suggestion to inaugurate the CIBF two days earlier than it was scheduled.
"It is a relief," he asserted, adding that the solution works in the interest of both the fair and publishers.
The Investment Pavilion was chosen to be the international hall for the official inauguration, he said. Under the title "A year since the 25 January Revolution", CIBF hosts 29 Arab and foreign countries with Tunisia is the guest of honour.


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