Abu Dhabi International Book Fair concludes successful 30th Edition

Event registers impressive 20% boost in book sales compared to previous, pre-pandemic edition

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair concludes successful 30th Edition

Abu Dhabi, UAE: Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) has concluded a successful 30th edition. Organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and managed by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, the fair took place between 23 and 29 May at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Implementing comprehensive precautionary measures for the safety of participants and visitors, this year’s edition of the fair was a hybrid event, combining on-ground and virtual programming, enabling publishers, industry professionals and literary fans in Abu Dhabi and all over the world to participate in the diverse sessions, either in person or remotely. The fair’s return as a physical event saw impressive footfall and registered a significant increase in book sales of more than 20% compared to the 2019 edition, which preceded the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HE Saood Al Hosani, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “Abu Dhabi International Book Fair’s successful return for its milestone 30th edition has reinforced Abu Dhabi’s status as a regional and international hub for culture and knowledge, as well as a world-class host of large-scale events. Over the course of the fair, we welcomed authors, academics, publishers and artists whose participation helped cultivate a vibrant cultural and literary moment that was unaffected by the ramifications of the pandemic. We are so pleased with the level of public engagement with this year’s event, and are proud to have displayed our capability to host events of this size while continuing to make the wellbeing of participants and guests our top priority.”

HE Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, said: “The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has long provided a platform for meaningful discussion of issues facing the publishing industry. At this year’s event we were pleased to unveil a series of important initiatives to bolster the sector following what has been a very challenging time. These were warmly received and are a testament to Abu Dhabi’s continuing commitment to supporting the cultural ecosystem in the emirate and beyond.

“We are delighted that engagement with the fair and its offerings was higher than ever, as this year witnessed our most dramatic spike in sales of all time: a 20% increase in comparison with the last edition. This serves to highlight the continued importance of literature and reading in the Arab region,” His Excellency added.

Mouza Al Shamsi, Acting Executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and Director of ADIBF, said: “Given recent global circumstances, we are beyond proud to have been able to host an in-person 30th edition of the Abu Dhabi International book Fair, and I would like to extend my thanks to all participants and visitors to the fair for their cooperation and diligence in observing the precautionary measures ensuring a safe, and successful event for all those involved. Above all, we are grateful to our frontline heroes who made it possible for us to host a cultural event of this scale.”

This year’s fair was an incubator of new partnerships, witnessing several agreements signed between various parties with the purpose of enriching Arabic-language content and celebrating Emirati culture and heritage. Partnerships forged between leading local and international organisations included a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and Brill publishers for the launch of peer-reviewed Arab studies journal, ‘Al Markaz’. Another MoU signed between the Arabic Language Centre and the Arab Youth Hub will facilitate the development of cultural projects and events supporting young Arabs.

The fair also witnessed the launch of two initiatives: ‘Emirati Treasures’, which celebrates the UAE’s 50th anniversary later this year, and ‘Oyoon Al Nathr Al Araby’ (Exploring Arab Prose), which promotes digital and audio books.

ADIBF 2021 saw the introduction of several initiatives aiming to bolster the publishing sector, starting with a directive issued by the fair’s patron, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to allocate AED 6 million for purchasing a large collection of books, reference titles and educational resources to be distributed to government school libraries across the nation. ADIBF also exempted exhibitors from all participation fees at this year’s edition. Additionally, Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre significantly increased the number of grants issued through its annual ‘Spotlight on Rights’ programme, from 40 to 300, and expanded its scope to include grants for audiobooks and ebooks.

A virtual ceremony to honour the winners of the 15th Sheikh Zayed Book Award was also held as part of the fair’s programme, while the winners were also featured in a panel discussion that highlighted their literary and cultural achievements. The writers expressed their profound appreciation for the Award and discussed what it has meant to them to win the most prestigious literary prize in the Arab world.

In a live ceremony honouring the United Arab Emirates’ frontline heroes, Dr. Omar Al Hammadi, Internal Medicine Consultant and Deputy Chairman of the Emirates Society of Internal Medicine, spoke of the sacrifice of the country’s medical, healthcare and support workers. Dr. Al Hammadi answered audience questions and addressed the reasons that conspiracy theories have run rampant during the pandemic, explaining in the process the lessons that world governments could learn from this crisis in preparation for any potential similar future events.

Several sessions took place at this year’s event that addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cultural sector, and the ways the crisis has also motivated writers and artists to reach new heights of creativity. One session, ‘Pandemics & Civilisation’, discussed the status of literature during the current pandemic, as well as shedding light on how historically, pandemics and global health emergencies have motivated people to use creativity as a coping mechanism in difficult times. Another session, ‘Humanities & Digitalities in a Post-Covid World’, tackled such issues as communication and future foresight to predict the likely outcome of technological integration in society.

Addressing ongoing issues in the sector, the ‘Publishing in the Arab World’ workshop brought together several prominent Arab publishers to discuss the industry’s problem with piracy, as well as publishers’ and writers’ rights.

Guest of Honour at the 2021 fair was the Federal Republic of Germany, which hosted a number of cultural and professional development events that highlighted the cultural ties between Germany and the Arab world. The session ‘From Cinderella to Sinbad: German and Arab Timeless Tales’ examined the influence of narratives from Ancient Egypt and other world civilisations on German folk literature, while a panel discussion titled ‘Germany and the Orient’ explored German attitudes toward Islam and the region classically referred to as the ‘Orient’ throughout the years, starting from the Enlightenment era through to the modern day. Discussions also took place at the fair regarding the fierce competition in the publishing industry, and the best practices Arab publishers need to adopt after selling book rights in other countries and expanding into new markets.

German cultural and language centre Goethe-Institute was also present at the fair, and concluded its participation with a lively discussion of the poetry slam scenes in Germany and the UAE, and the differences between them in terms of rules, topics, advantages and areas for improvement.

The fair also hosted a session which featured Hamad Al Kaabi, Editor-in-Chief of Emirati daily newspaper Al Ittihad in discussion with HE Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Cultural Advisor to the UAE President and Chancellor of United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), HE Saeed Mohamed Al Nazari, Director General of the Federal Youth Authority, HE Ali Abdullah Al Ahmad, UAE Ambassador to France, and other cultural personalities to explore the journey of the United Arab Emirates leading up to its Golden Jubilee year.

Another UAE anniversary session, ‘The 50th Year and the Road to the Future’, included a viewing of a short historical film highlighting the nation’s progress through the last five decades and shedding light on its future ambitions. The session then discussed the UAE’s remarkably rapid development and the factors contributing to the country’s success.

In the session ‘New Archaeological Discoveries Unveil the UAE’s Rich History’, Dr. Peter Magee, Director of the Zayed National Museum, discussed the country’s most recent archaeological findings. The renowned archaeologist also showcased his book, Emirates: Our History, which is included in school curriculums across the nation, which explores ancient events in the land now known as the UAE, details the emergence of civilisation in the area, and examines historical cultural and trade ties with the rest of the region.

Additionally, a session was hosted discussing the UAE’s scientific innovations in light of the momentous achievement of the ‘Hope Probe’ Mars exploration mission, and its significance to the country’s capacity for leading space exploration in the future.

Another special session saw French writer Gilbert Sinoué, author of Le Faucon (The Falcon), discuss his body of work, which includes a unique literary biography of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan that details Sheikh Zayed’s exceptional life and career as one of the 20th century’s most important leaders.

The fair also hosted several prominent Arab and international translators in a session titled ‘The Art of Translation: My Words, Your Voice’, which discussed translators’ ability to faithfully interpret text into a different language. The participants also tackled the connection between author and translator, and how sentiments can be expressed in other languages.

Finally, the fair celebrated the Arabic language’s diversity and rich vocabulary in a session titled ‘Arabic Language Without Borders’, which included a thorough analysis of the future of Arabic in the face of severe linguistic, cultural and technical difficulties. Attended by HE Dr. bin Tamim, Dr. Hanada Taha, the Endowed Chair Professor of Arabic Language at Zayed University, Prof. Dr. Salah Fadl, President of the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo, and Dr. Khalil Al Sheikh, Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at Jordan's Yarmouk University, participants explored the ways the language can be developed to meet new innovations in many fields.

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