Abha - Aafaq Newspaper
"A Book Fair is considered a cultural festival and annual gathering for thought and the arts." With these words, the Book Fair was described by His Royal Highness, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, during his visit to the fair before its conclusion last Friday in Riyadh. Dr. Abdullah Al Jasser, Deputy Minister Deputy of Culture and Information. said this about developments this year: "The Ministry had a new idea, which is to hold some of the Fair’s activities outside the City of Riyadh." Mr. Timothy A. Lenderking, Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Riyadh, visited the Fair and was amazed by the organizers' effort. In her article, the author Fatimah Al Tisan, said, "The Fair is like water for thirsty people.”, and described it as “The most prominent achievement and of the strongest significance of the Ministry of Culture and Information in its seriousness in motivating the members of Saudi Society to read and take notice".
This year, the Fair included automatic search devices that revealed the most visited publishers, titles, and authors. Among the participants was the Ministry of the Interior, which showed visitors its services and provided several brochures. The fair also included the participation of more than 30 artists, male and female, in the field of plastic art. The focus of the Fair was, however, on the children’s sections. In this regard, Dr. Hind Al Khalifah stressed that, "We should work to activate the role of the book to promote objective thinking and scientific research in children". The activities of the cultural programs continued throughout the Fair day and included accompanying workshops on mothers and children.
In addition to the other cultural activities, traditional coffee attracted visitors to the Fair. One of the coffee activities was to: honor the top ten winners of the Ministry of Culture and Information book award. A platform was also signed by 32 participants, both male and female. As for the cultural divan, it was held at the Marriott Hotel throughout the Fair and dealt with different debatable topics each day. Each topic was deeply discussed from various objectives, which attracted mostly intellectuals, writers, and others interested in the topics, both male and female. On the first evening, the divan lionized ten honorees of Arabic calligraphy. The evening also included a presentation of their experiences, successes, and discoveries of the skills and techniques of the art of Arabic calligraphy.
Aafaq visited the Fair in order to find out the views of the supervisors, organizers and visitors. Firstly, Aafaq met Mr. Abdullah Al Kinani, Assistant Director of the Book Fair, who spoke about new activities in the current Fair, and said, "There are many additions made by the Ministry at this year’s International Book Fair, including the introduction of query devices to search the collective information about the books’ publishers, authors, and prices. This program was developed to make it easier for visitors to make enquiries about books from their homes before visiting the Fair. There is also an app applicable to smart devices that provides a map of the Fair as well as a search and query for the books." He added, "One of the other new things at the Fair is the release of a daily newspaper, in addition to questionnaires, which aimed to develop the Fair as well as its activities".
Al Kinani continued, "The Fair’s entrance has also been provided with a digital attendance counter to record the precise number of visitors at all times in order to benefit from this information over the coming years in terms of peak times, in order to increase staff participation during these times.
The Saudi author’s section was improved by expanding it to attract more authors who publish independently. Nine platforms for autographing had also been added to the section: five for men, three for women, and one to launch a variety of books."
He added, "The Fair has also been re-designed in terms of reducing the area for government agencies by 30%. There is a new section this year called “the Reader’s Busk”. It is specialized for the blind; the organizers communicate with them before their arrival to the Fair and then take them to publishing sections and show them the areas they request. In addition, there are services for all publishers who participate in the Fair. These services include: Internet, imaging, fax and communications."
Furthermore, he talked about the Fair Channel that has been developed and equipped with its own studio and which broadcasts many events, as well as the Cultural Cafe in the VIP lounge and the art gallery, and photo gallery provided by Saudi newspapers.
About his aspirations for the Fair’s future, he said, "We hope to move the Fair from a national to an international event, as there are now international participants in the Fair. The Frankfurt Book Fair has a section in the Fair, and there is also a section for the London Book Fair. We seek to provide more creative annual developments to count the fair is one of international standard.
Ramzi Al Sharayah, a delegate from a Jordanian publisher who participated in the Fair, pointed out that their participation was not as great as in the past for several reasons: the spread of electronic publishing, the Internet, current economic conditions in the Arab world, and what he called “the circumstances surrounding the Middle East”. Al Sharayah thanked Fair management for what he described as a well-organized and coordinated, large media and advertising effort, thanking the Ministry of Culture and Information for their clear efforts at the Fair, wishing them to continue the same development and creativity to reach new heights.
Abdel-Rahim al-Ahmadi, an author and publisher, referred to the huge crowd of visitors that he'd seen due to the concerted effort made by the Ministry of Culture and Information and the other relevant bodies. He said that readers in Saudi Arabia have become aware of and taken an interest in all multi-scientific aspects and there is evidence for that in the growing motivation to acquire books. He wished that the Ministry of Culture and Information increased the length of the Book Fair.
Dr. Mohammed Abu Yahya Abu Milha, an Associate Professor at King Khalid University and Vice-Chairman of the Abha Literary Club, said, "The Book Fair has become an annual habit for educated intellectuals and literary lovers to read and learn, as well as for researchers, students, and everyone who has knowledge and interest in the importance of reading, whether more professionally or as a hobby." He attended most Book Fair activities, as he confirmed to Aasfaq, either through personal interest or by invitation from the Ministry of Culture and Information. He also gave a lecture, titled “The Novel and Civil Society.”, during the current Fair. He said, commenting on the organization and participation of the Fair, "There is a growing number of participating publishers and this year the coordination of the Fair and events management have become more mature and accurate. This reflects the experience of the Ministry in this regard. There are also additional restrictions on some books without specifying the names of books in particular.
Male and Female Students
Aafaq interviewed a student, Saba Bakr, of Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, in the Fair Hall and asked her about the reason for her presence. She answered, "I am here due to my deep love of reading in various fields and for my love of writing prose". She added that, "The Book Fair, this year, is much bigger and contains more publishers, and this contributes to increase search opportunities for books that may not exist with some publishers."
Abdulmohsin, a student in the fourth grade at Sultan Campus School, and Shahd Al Mushrif, a student at Tarbya Namoutheagea School in Riyadh, like the children’s section because it has interesting books and stories for children as well as nursery rhymes CDs for children and convenient education tools, as well as games that require intelligence and skill. They also like to attend educational workshops and training for children.