Let’s pas­sion­ately pro­mote the many joys of lit­er­a­ture

▶ Events in the UAE bring the light of Mid­dle Eastern cul­ture to the whole world

The National - News - - OPINION -

The Shar­jah In­ter­na­tional Book Fair, which opens to­day, is an ex­cit­ing chap­ter in the un­fold­ing story of the UAE’s pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cacy of lit­er­acy and ed­u­ca­tion in the Arab world. Well over two mil­lion visi­tors from dozens of coun­tries will de­scend on Shar­jah to en­gage with thou­sands of de­bates, talks and ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing a 10-day cel­e­bra­tion of the printed word that will fea­ture 1.5 mil­lion books and at­tract hun­dreds of pub­lish­ers from dozens of coun­tries.

Over the past 36 years, the fair has be­come one of the largest in the world, and the sin­gle most im­por­tant event for the pro­mo­tion of Arab lit­er­a­ture. Of course, in­ter­na­tional pub­lish­ing pro­fes­sion­als will meet to ne­go­ti­ate trans­la­tion rights. But Shar­jah dif­fers from other book fairs, such as those in Lon­don and Frank­furt, in that its main ob­jec­tive is to pro­mote a love of the writ­ten word. That ob­jec­tive is shared by the Arab Read­ing Chal­lenge, launched by Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid, the Ruler of Dubai, which yes­ter­day an­nounced its win­ner, nineyear-old Mariam Amjoon from Morocco.

This in­spir­ing com­pe­ti­tion asks much of its young en­trants, who have to read at least 50 books in Ara­bic in a year, sum­maris­ing the con­tents to the sat­is­fac­tion of judges. The fact that this year, it at­tracted an as­ton­ish­ing 10 mil­lion young peo­ple from across the globe speaks vol­umes about the hunger for Arab lit­er­a­ture. From the In­ter­na­tional Prize for Ara­bic Fic­tion, funded by Abu Dhabi’s Depart­ment of Cul­ture and Tourism and held in the city since 2007, to the launch this month of Madrasa, an on­line learn­ing tool that will al­low 50 mil­lion Ara­bic-speak­ing chil­dren to ac­cess knowl­edge from around the world, the UAE is do­ing much to build an Ara­bic cul­tural re­nais­sance upon the foun­da­tions of lit­er­acy and learn­ing. The sub­ject of one talk at the Shar­jah book fair this evening is “The sun of Arab cul­ture”, a dis­cus­sion about how the Arab na­tion can rekin­dle the bright light of Ara­bic eru­di­tion that once il­lu­mi­nated the world. In the UAE, that sun is shin­ing.

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