Germany Sets Hybrid Guest of Honor for 2021 Abu Dhabi Fair

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Moving its physical programming to 2022, the German program plans a hybrid model at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair for this year.

On the exhibition floor of the 2017 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Image: ADIBF

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Bin Tamim: ‘Deep Cultural and Intellectual Ties’
As is happening, of course, in the case of many international publishing events this spring, Frankfurter Buchmesse has announced that the planned Guest of Honor Germany physical program at the United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi International Book Fair will be postponed to 2022.

Germany will, however, be represented with a stand at the Abu Dhabi fair this year, and will feature a hybrid cultural and professional program, as well.

Among the region’s largest book fairs, the Abu Dhabi event—set for May 23 to 29—has arrived at its 30th iteration as a much-anticipated public-facing show of books, authors, and publishing’s evolution, and it also stages an extensive professional program supplemented since 2009 by its “Spotlight on Rights” program.

Rights funding alone has seen more than 120 publishers awarded translation grants between US$2,500 for children’s books and $4,000 for other genres.

In assessing the fluidity this season of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos says, “We very much regret that we won’t be able to host Germany’s guest of honor appearance this year.

Juergen Boos

“Publishers from the Arab world are important licensing partners for German publishers, and we’re pleased about the continuing high level of interest in German titles and authors. Our aim is to offer the participating authors and publishing representatives optimal business and presentation conditions. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee this this year.

“We’re all the more pleased that we can use this year to initiate important contacts in the rights and licensing business digitally.

“We’re pleased that we can still offer our exhibitors the opportunity to present their books at the stand, and we’ll be offering an attractive hybrid trade program that will showcase trends and aspects in the publishing and creative industries as well as cultural diversity.”

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim

And Dr. Ali Bin Tamim—well known to Publishing Perspectives readers as chair of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and secretary-general of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award—is quoted, saying, “This is not the development we’d hoped to see in the spring of 2021, but we’re confident in our capacity, and that of our German partners, to overcome this hurdle and resume our cultural agenda.

“Abu Dhabi International Book Fair will be held at its usual venue this year, and while we are exploring the full range of opportunities afforded by a hybrid events model, the actual exhibition can now be held thanks to the efforts of Abu Dhabi’s authorities.

“The United Arab Emirates and Germany share deep cultural and intellectual ties that we’ll continue to champion until our guests can honor us in person come 2022.”

Boos: ‘An Attractive Hybrid Trade Program’

Ernst Peter Fischer

Ernst Peter Fischer, Berlin’s ambassador to the UAE in Abu Dhabi, points out that he, too, had looked forward to Germany’s prominent presence this year at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

“Alas, COVID-19 has forced us to scale down our participation in 2021,” Fischer says.

“We are very delighted, however, to be guest of honor next year at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2022. This will coincide with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and the United Arab Emirates.

“So we look forward to celebrating the bonds of friendship and culture which so happily unite us and showcase our plans for deepening our partnership as together we enter the next 50 years and the era after the pandemic.”

Fareed Majari

And Fareed Majari, director of the Goethe-Institut in the Gulf Region, says, “The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is one of the highlights in the cultural life of the Gulf Region. We were looking forward to Germany’s contribution as a guest of honor and are disappointed that the pandemic doesn’t allow the program to go ahead as planned.

“There will be a hybrid program, but our German guests will have to wait until the spring of 2022 to grace the book fair in person.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve learned to appreciate face-to-face meetings and informal talks over a cup of coffee. They’re so important. But better safe than sorry. We’re looking forward to welcoming writers, editors, and the public in May 2022.

“The exhibition Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Personality of the Year will open as planned and we’ll add an online component, so that everybody will have access to it without compromising their safety.”

The Guest of Honor Germany presentation at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is presented by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in cooperation with the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry and supported by Frankfurter Buchmesse.

The guest of honor presentation is organized by Leipziger Messe International. The cultural program is funded by the Federal Foreign Office and is jointly organized by Frankfurter Buchmesse, the German Embassy in Abu Dhabi, and Goethe-Institut in the Gulf Region.

For more on Frankfurter Buchmesse’s plans for its own 2021 evocation (October 20 to 24), see our article on the March announcement. Exhibitor registration is open and continues to May 31.


More from Publishing Perspectives on book fairs and trade shows is here, more on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here, more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on guest of honor programs is here, more on the United Arab Emirates is here, and more on Germany is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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