With the theme “Your Future … Just a Book Away” the just-ended tenth Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival in the United Arab Emirates drew 247,000 visitors, of which 52,000 were children.

While the 2018 event fell short of last year’s record 306,000 visitors it was still an impressive turnout, and all the more so given the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was attracting its own crowd of hundreds of thousands just ninety miles (170 km) up the road.

But if you’re thinking a half million people attending book fairs in the UAE is remarkable, just wait until the main Sharjah International Book Fair kicks off later this year. In 2017 it drew 2.38 million visitors.

Ahmad Al Ameri, chairman of Sharjah Book Authority that organised the children’s event, said the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival,

has never been merely a place for books, seminars and workshops, but an integrated event that has continued to help younger generations keep pace with the latest in science, literature and theatre, consolidating its role as a carnival of knowledge, learning and fun (stemming from) Sharjah’s firm belief in equipping future generations with determination, persistence, knowledge and culture.

At a time when all the oil-reliant Middle East countries are having to rethink their future as the advanced industrial nations prepare to move on from oil, the UAE leads the way in promoting the Arab Renaissance that is enveloping the Middle East and North Africa.

But remarkably there’s much more to Sharjah than just an Arab renaissance. Sharjah leads the way in promoting books, literature and learning across the globe, and with the establishment of the Sharjah Publishing Free Zone Sharjah is pivoting itself to become a centre of global publishing that bridges the traditional divisions in the international book markets.