You might think that, with almost four million visitors turning out for the January 2018 Cairo International Book Fair, there wouldn’t be anyone left to warrant another book event in Egypt.
After all, as we all know Arabs don’t read.
And if you believe that, I’m offering half-price flights to the Moon all next week. First come first served.
For anyone still not convinced Arabs love their books, check out this post from TNPS back in October 2017, before the record-breaking January Cairo IBF.
Meanwhile back to summer 2018.
Not content with being home to the world’s biggest book fairs, attracting millions of book lovers each year, Egypt is stepping up its book fair game this year with a series of summer book fairs along the Mediterranean coast.
After yet another January book fair that simply didn’t have room to accommodate all that wanted to squeeze in (close to 4 million in 2018), the event’s organiser, the General Egyptian Book Organization (GEBO), promised to add new, and boost existing, fairs through the year to meet the demand for books and to extend publisher reach.
The first of the summer fairs was held at the popular Mediterranean resort town of Ras al-Bar, in the Damietta governorate, near the chic Beau Rivage Hotel from June 26 to July 5.
That was followed by the Port Said Book Fair which began July 12 and wound up July 21. Another book fair is lined up for Mersa Matruh later this month.
The summer book fairs targeting the beach resorts arose from the observation that, just like in the west, summer is for heading to the beach with a good books.
Explained GEBO chairman Haytham al-Haj Ali to Al-Monitor this past week:
The idea was inspired by the many beachgoers who take their books with them and spend most of their summer days reading. So why not reach out to them to spread awareness on literature by holding book fairs at the resorts?”
Egyptian novelist Wagdy Elkomy concurred.
Taking books out to the beach is a better idea than the dull way in which the Ministry of Culture had been trying to promote reading. This is the first time the ministry has organized a cultural activity in a recreational venue.
As well as the beach fairs GEBO is planning a second big Cairo Fair for the autumn.
Meanwhile, as reported here at TNPS, Egyptian publishers are looking to up their international game –
and are even liaising with Amazon to get their ebooks into the Kindle store –
Despite all this, the faux narrative that Arabs don’t read continues to dominant global publishing debates, and the MENA (Middle East North Africa) markets continue to be treated as a sideshow.
That’s slowly changing. And as the Global New Renaissance gets into second gear we can expect MENA to get a lot more attention from the global publishing community.
Update: as this post goes live comes news that Huawei is to stream Arabic music across Mena, with the UAE, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia first in line.
This hard on the heels of Spotify’s plans to venture into MENA-
, and Storytel’s launch in Dubai –
We should be in no doubt MENA is going to be the place to be in the next decade. Savvy creatives and savvy distributors will be planning now to be part of the Arab Renaissance now blossoming.
Else while we are dithering, others will be gaining the advantage, as for example this post from Publishing Perspectives on Austin Macauley’s first six months in Sharjah.