2.17 million visitors from 112 countries send out inspiring message of ‘Spread the Word’ as
Consolidating its position as the world’s largest book fair for the second year in a row in terms of buying and selling of copyrights, the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) drew to a successful close, after receiving 2.17 million readers from 112 countries during the 12-day cultural extravaganza that ran under the theme, ‘Spread the Word’.
Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), the fair’s visitors comprised 54.2 percent male and 45.8 percent female. Of these, 40.8 percent were in the 16-25 age group while 35.1 percent formed part of the 25-45 age group.
Embodying its vision of building new generations of readers, SIBF 2022 received 218,000 students. For young pupils, the book fair is an important annual cultural destination that provides their libraries with new Arabic and foreign publications, and facilitates the opportunity to meet their favourite writers and cultural personalities, including content creators, artists and social media influencers.
SIBF 2022, which celebrated Italy as the Guest of Honour, hosted a galaxy of authors, sports personalities, intellectuals, artists, popular cinema icons from the Arab region and the Subcontinent, and a host of specialised experts to drive home Sharjah’s cultural campaign to the world, ‘If you’re into something, you’re into books’.
Through a diverse array of activities including music, arts, poetry evenings, and more under its vibrant cultural programme, the fair has strengthened and deepened connections between books and every aspect of human life.
SIBF 2022 welcomed India’s most celebrated actor Shah Rukh Khan – popularly known as the King of Bollywood; Egyptian actor Karim Abdul Aziz, lead star of The Blue Elephant; Egypt’s renowned action hero, Ahmed El Sakka; and Saudi Arabia’s prized musician, Abadi-Al Johar, amongst a host of other cultural celebrities.
Sudanese historian Yusuf Fadl Hasan was celebrated as ‘Cultural Personality’ of SIBF 2022 while the fair also hosted a distinguished group of regional and international guests in the 41st edition, including Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka, winner of the 2022 Booker Prize; Geetanjali Shree, Hindi-language author and winner of the International Booker prize; Algerian novelist Waciny Laredj, Egyptian writer Ahmad Mourad, and author Sultan Al Amimi, Chairman of the Emirates Writers Union, amongst others.
The forum halls opened doors for debates and discussions on some of the most prominent issues impacting Arab and world literature and explored challenges of translation, delved into the future of communication, and offered insights on the importance of research, documentation and history. Over the course of 12 days, SIBF hosted more than 200 cultural discussions to enrich and educate the visitors.
This year, the book fair shed light on the African experience in literature through the African – Arab Cultural Programme and celebrated writers of the contemporary diaspora with a special programme encompassing performances and activities in literature, art, fashion, and music.
The annual book fair, which places publishers at the heart of the cultural event, opened opportunities for professionals in the industry to network, matchmake, and forge partnerships. 26 publishing houses from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, India, UK, Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and UAE, are embarking on a new journey to make inroads in the region and beyond by signing up to avail the support facilities and services at the Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone.
During the fair, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, directed the allocation of AED 4.5 million to equip the emirate’s libraries with the latest titles from regional and international publishing houses who have a presence at the 41st SIBF.
With more than 38 million impressions, SIBF’s social media accounts reached more than 7 million users globally. More than 18 million individuals viewed videos created for the 41st edition while the hashtag ‘#SIBF22’ created 78 million impressions. In addition, there were 8,400 individual posts from the public and media that used the hashtag in Arabic and English.
HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, said: “Curtains came down on the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair with over 2.17 million visitors. These are not mere visitors but ambassadors who carry forward the message and vision of SBA, and the emirate’s cultural project that was founded five decades ago by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, which has grown and borne fruit, the latest of which is the recognition as the world’s largest book fair for the second year in a row.”
The SBA Chairman added: “One of the core goals of the book fair is to raise awareness on the importance of reading, and build communities that believe in the value and impact of books. We have achieved this goal to a large extent. Our goal is to transcend the idea that reading is an activity for intellectuals only. At SBA, we believe that reading is for all segments of the community whose interests span across varied fields like music, cinema, sports, architecture, fashion, or any other. This was reflected in the diversity of SIBF guests in the 41st edition whose relationship with books was evident during their participation at the event.”
Khoula Al Mujaini, General Coordinator of SIBF, said: “SIBF vibrant agenda of activities in its 41st edition offered a comprehensive experience that attracted visitors and distinguished artists, sportsmen and authors from all around the world. The high footfall is a clear indicator of the status and importance of the international book fair in meeting the demands of its guests, regardless of age and nationalities.”
This year, SIBF 2022 hosted 2,213 publishers, comprising 1,298 from the Arab region and 915 from around the world. Under the book fair’s cultural programme this year, SIBF hosted 150 distinguished authors, intellectuals and creatives who led 1,500 activities and sessions including 200 activities encompassing workshops, talks, and seminars.
“You can’t buy an experience but you can buy a book about experiences and learn from them,” said footballing legend Zlatan Ibrahimović, a prolific goalscorer and bestselling author of I Am Zlatan and I Am Football, at the concluding session of the 41st edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair.
“Books provide inspiration and give many people access to learn from experts,”
said the Swedish professional footballer who has enjoyed success both on the field and in the world of literature with his bestselling memoirs.”I believe it is my responsibility to share my experience and write what I have learnt to make better people and footballers in the world,” he added.
Advising young readers and his fans of all ages in the packed ballroom, the Sweden forward said: “When you do something in life, do it because you believe in it. When something feels natural and real, that’s when it works all the time.”
The excitement in the ballroom was truly palpable as Ibrahimović, who plays as a striker for Serie A club AC Milan and has scored almost 600 goals between his multiple clubs and his national team, walked into the auditorium and onto the stage.
Describing him as “still young”, the celebrated 41-year-old footballer and author of Adrenaline: My Untold Stories, attributed his success on and off the field over the last 23 years to “working hard for what you want to achieve.”
He said: “I don’t do things to cater to the expectations of others and when people doubt me, it fills me with passion and I never give up or let the opinions of others slow me down.”
Expressing his pride in his discipline and ‘bullet-proof’ mentality, Ibrahimović noted that he maintains this resolve by surrounding himself with inspirational people and inspiring others.
In response to a question, Zlatan said:
“Roberto Carlos probably had the biggest impact on my career as a fellow player, because of the competition we shared between each other. He was an explosive player, and in some ways, he grounded and pushed me to be even better than I was.”
Responding to a question, the Swedish footballer said although he considers Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo to be rather special, it was ultimately up to the fans to decide.
Speaking about the upcoming World Cup, the acclaimed footballer said he expects Argentina to take the title and that he hopes for Messi to hold up the World Cup trophy.
“Every World Cup is exciting as it’s the biggest stage for football to be played on, it is always special to me whether I’m playing or not. Regardless of my prediction, the best team on the day will take the trophy home.”
Expanding on his thoughts about Messi, Zlatan said, “Messi truly loves football as I do, and we both love to give back to the game. This is very important – giving back to the sport we love is a big part of our journey.”