The 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) was a great success again this year, with many people attending the almost two-week event. We interviewed Khawla Al Mujaini, General coordinator of SIBF.
Daily News Hungary (DNH): What started 41 years ago as a small local book fair has grown into one of the largest book fairs in the world. Could you tell us how this was achieved? What is the secret of their success?
Al Mujaini: We followed the vision of His Highness, who believed that SIBF had huge potential. We tried to make his vision a reality. Networking was important in this development. We started attending book fairs around the world, both for them to get to know us and for us to get to know others. Also important on the way to success was to make contact with Arab writers and publishers and connect them with the international market. There should be a strong message in such an event, and it is also forward-looking to embrace the changes and challenges that the years bring.
DNH: Hungary participated in the SIBF for the first time. Can you give us some details?
Al Mujaini: We were very happy to welcome our guests from Hungary, as it was indeed the first time they had come from your country. As far as I know, they participated in the Publisher Conference events.
DNH: Can you also recommend the event to Hungarians or to Central Europeans?
Al Mujaini: We welcome guests from all over the world because we can offer both cultural and business opportunities to Hungarian publishers and authors. These things make it worthwhile to visit us in the future. There are always new opportunities, who knows, maybe one day we will be the special guests of the Budapest Book Week. UAE is trying to offer opportunities to publishers in European countries so that they don’t have to go to other Asian countries to print books, they can just come to the Emirates for the cheapest deal.
DNH: What do you think about the book being the past and digitisation the future?
Al Mujaini: I don’t believe in it. Books will be with us forever, digitalisation will not solve that, because the readability, touch, and smell of books will always be with us. Yes, we use digital channels to advertise books, but that doesn’t mean that books will ever go out of use. In fact, in my experience, the younger generation still has a need for books, in addition to growing up surrounded by digital devices. Children’s books are a priority category at the book fair, as there is a huge market and there is always a demand for newer and newer themed stories, tales, and coloring books alongside older titles. In English, Arabic, or even Hungarian.
DNH: Although it is not part of the book fair, we would be curious to know why Sharjah is the perfect tourist destination for people?
Al Mujaini: Sharjah is a family-oriented and safe city. The community here is very friendly as it is multinational and open to everyone. There are many attractions in Sharjah, such as the magnificent Khar Fakkan, or even the House of Wisdom. There are many activities for tourists: Aquarium, Butterfly Park, and many more. So, it must be on your bucket list for when you come to the United Arab Emirates. We welcome you all!
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