The Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) is set to open Saturday, Jan. 29, with a packed schedule of events in honor of China and the centenary of the late Nobel laureate Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz.
Originally scheduled to begin on Wednesday, the opening of the 43rd CIBF was delayed by three days. The agenda, however, will not be affected by the delay, as the Fair will be extended to Feb. 8 to compensate, Chairman of the General Book Organization, Saber Arab, said in a statement on the Fair’s website.
This year’s Fair is being held at the Cairo International Conference Center for the first time, due to construction at the International Fair Grounds which is thought to be a factor in the delay.
The new dates coincide with the mid-year school vacation, which will draw larger crowds the Book Fair.
CIBF is one of the few cultural events that is both free to the public and widely attended by a broad spectrum of Cairenes. The CIBF is visited by over 2 million people each year, making it the largest book fair in the Middle East and Africa. This year, it will host 631 publishers from 29 countries, including 17 Arab states.
Some come to look at the book selection, which ranges from humble stalls of used books and religious texts to impressive halls packed with latest novels in English and Arabic, to university textbooks and a wide selection of books of almost every genre. Others come to have a picnic and spend time with family and friends in a comfortable and festive setting.
Others come to take part in the rich cultural events offered by the Book Fair organizers. This year’s program offers a series lectures covering topics such as international epidemics, communism and the Arabic novel.
Highlights include a panel on Jan. 31 with famed novelist BahaaTaher, who will discuss the current status of Arabic literature. On Feb. 7, ”Taxi” author Khaled Khamissi will discuss new dialogues in Arabic literature and Helmy Salem, Maged Youssef and Libyan Mohamed El Faqiya Saleh will speak on a panel entitled “Poetry in 1970’s Libya and Egypt.” The following day’s program will feature a roundtable with Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni.
Music will take center stage at this year’s fair, with scheduled performances by a number of local artists including Cairo-based Iraqi oud player Nasir Shamma, the Cairo Opera Orchestra, Wust El Balad and Hany Shenouda, among others.
Two poetry nights are also planned, one marking the 50th anniversary of Bayram El Tunisi’s death and another marking the 80th anniversary of great poet Salah Jahin’s birth.
This year’s guest of honor is China, and the fair will play host to 248 Chinese publishers who are set to exhibit over 10,000 books at the country’s pavilion, featuring China’s achievements in the fields of politics, economy, science and technology and culture. Special areas at the pavilion will be dedicated to exhibitions about the Chinese language, a display of photography depicting Sino-Egyptian friendship and China’s cultural heritage and modern society.
Thirteen of China’s renowned scholars will also be in attendance, delivering speeches and participating in readings alongside Egyptian writers and poets. Highlights include a seminar exaimining literary translation of Chinese and Egyptian works and a weeklong film festival during which a program of six Chinese films with Arabic subtitles will be screened.
As part of its participation in this year’s Fair, China has announced that it will donate a collection of 1,000 books to libraries in Egypt including the National Library, the National Archives and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.