Given the Jeddah International Book Fair ran from December 26 through January 5, we can only attribute five days worth of the 475,000 visitors to the 2019 book fair count, but even so we’re looking at about a quarter million booklovers descending on an Arab book fair so far in 2019, and we’re still less than two weeks into the year.
To the Jeddah numbers we can add an as yet unspecified number of “thousands” more attending the 2nd Qassim Book Fair in Saudi Arabia.
The event, which started Friday, has more than 200 publishers taking part, as well as many government agencies, companies and authors, according to Arab News.
Ahmed Al-Hamdan, vice president of the Arab Publishers Association, said that the event would help to encourage society to read.
The 2nd Qassim Book Fair is organised by the municipality of Buraidah and is being held at the Qassim International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
While widely ignored by publishers outside the region, the MENA (Middle East North Africa) book market is one of the fastest developing literature arenas on the planet, and regularly attracts millions to its book fairs and festivals.
The MENA region rounded off 2018 with two spectacular book fairs in Algiers (Algeria) and Sharjah (UAE) that between them attracted over 4 million visitors, taking total Arab book fair visitors to well over 10 million, and 2019 will almost certainly see new records set as the Arab Renaissance gathers momentum.
In the next few weeks we’ll be seeing the Baghdad (Iraq) and the Casablanca (Morocco) International Book Fairs, which between them clocked close to one million visitors last year, and we’ll also see the Golden Jubilee Cairo International Book fair in Egypt, which is the biggest book fair in the world, with 4.5 million visitors last year.
Later this year we’ll of course have the 2019 incarnations of the Algiers and Sharjah events, and with Sharjah becoming the world book capital in April, we can expect the Sharjah book fair to be exceptional this year, and likely we’ll see the 5 million visitor barrier broke between these two.
And that’s before we even begin to think about the middle range Arab book fairs like Kuwait, Riyadh, Muscat, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Abu Dhabi and the Sharjah Children’s Literature Festival that each can attract from a few hundred thousand to just shy of a million visitors each.
Could we see 15 million attend Arab book fairs this year?