UAE: Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Expects 1,350 Exhibitors

In News by Porter Anderson

The 33rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair expects representation from 90 countries and announces professional and cultural programming.

At Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2023. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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

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Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Outlines Early Details

A Large Chinese Delegation Is To Include 70 Guests
The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (April 29 to May 5) in its 33rd iteration, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, is being planned with Egypt as its guest of honor.

The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, which produces the fair, reports today (April 18) that it will have 1,350 exhibitors at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, representing as many as 90 countries.

In fact, 12 of those countries will be represented for the first time, and by a total 145 publishers:

  • Greece
  • Sri Lanka
  • Malaysia
  • Pakistan
  • Cyprus
  • Mozambique
  • Kazakhstan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Brazil

Some 2,000 events are planned, the programming staff reports, with 375 local exhibitors, publishers, and government entities presenting their newest releases. One of the most interesting elements of the Abu Dhabi fair is lineup of large, impressive stands created by the emirate’s civic agencies to promote and distribute their publications.

Bin Tamim: ‘New Prospects’

At Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2023. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is a public-facing program. In a news conference today, the local-area news media heard from Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, chair of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, who also is secretary-general of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, the winners’ ceremony of which will be held on April 30 during the run of the fair.

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim

In his comments, made at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in its steeply raked theater facility, bin Tamim said, “This years edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is the most beautiful to date; it underlines the great success the event has had in achieve Abu Dhabis strategy, as the capital of the United Arab Emirates, to spearhead efforts to advance the presence of the Arabic language in creative and cultural industries, building on the momentum of its International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries and its success in becoming the most influential Arab platform in this key sector.

Related article: ‘Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Outlines Early Details.’ Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

Since its establishment by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE, and the unwavering and generous support of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, the fair has set the standards and traditions now followed by book fairs cross the Arab world.

“This includes selecting countries to be a guest of honor. This year, we are proud to spotlight the Arab Republic of Egypt, as well as our focus personality program and our comprehensive cultural and intellectual agenda featuring debates, professional programs, popular international podcasts, and more.

“This in turn,” bin Tamim said, “expands the concept of a book fair, opening up new prospects for cultural and intellectual exchange.

“The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has successfully struck a balance in its content, format, narrative, and objectives, presenting a premier cultural product that bridges the past and present, addresses the future, and contributes to sustainability of knowledge, culture, and related industries.”

Al Tunaiji: ‘Cultural, Professional, and Creative Arts’

Also speaking, the executive director of the Arabic Language Centre, Saeed Hamdan Al Tunaiji, said, “The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has become a staple on the cultural and creative calendar, awaited by all members of the community, as well as a meeting point for creators from around the world looking to showcase their works and make their mark on the cultural scene.

Saeed Hamdan Al Tunaiji

“This year’s fair will present a diverse cultural program that includes sessions; seminars; and cultural and informational dialogues with authors, thinkers, and creative people from various fields.

“Egypt will participate with a full schedule of events reflecting its cultural and intellectual role, alongside activities and programs dedicated to the focus personality,” that latter program featuring, as we have reported, the work of the late Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006).

“Meanwhile, all participating countries will have their own showcases at their respective pavilions. The event presents the audience with cultural, professional, and creative arts programs,” Al Tunaiji says, “as well as activities for children and youth, exhibitors, and partners, among other carefully curated events.”

In addition, he said, this year’s edition of the fair is expected to have working a “comprehensive digital payment system” for the first time.

Professional Programming

A stage presentation at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2023. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

A professional program this year has been devised to include commentary around artificial intelligence and creative industries, of course, and a highlight on the UAE’s Year of Sustainability program.

Among speakers are Karine Pansa, president of the International Publishers Association (IPA); José Borghino, IPA secretary-general; Michele Cobb, executive director of the Audio Publishers Association; Miles Stevens-Hoare, managing director at RBmedia; and Mohamed Rashad, president of the Arab Publishers Association.

The Abu Dhabi Fellowship Program (Abu Dhabi Connect), and a New Opportunities Center are part of the plan. And organizers say the fair will also adopt a new initiative to support digital technologies and statistics in the Arab world, with a special focus on AI, offering workshops to build Arab publishers’ skills in the field.

China is on tap to be represented by nine stands, making this, according to organizers. The official Chinese delegation is expected to include 70 guests representing 80 Chinese publishing houses.

The Chinese pavilion is planned to offer 15 cultural, professional, and artistic events during the course of the fair’s seven-day run.

India is also participating, and in its case with 23 publishing houses, along with a diverse cultural program and activities focusing on various Indian dishes and cultures.

In our story on April 3, we looked at some of the elements of the “focus personality” emphasis.  We learn today that the focal program will have a stand of its own “to shed light on Mahfouz’s most notable achievements, his life story, and his impact on literature and humanity” in addition to offering fairgoers audiovisual presentations, seminars, and more.

Activities include several highlighted session:

  • Naguib Mahfouz: Mirror of History and Society, which discusses the late author’s works from a sociological and historical perspective
  • Beginnings and Endings, which sheds light on Mahfouz’s early and later works
  •  The Harafish Group, which hosts people who were close to Mahfouz, to discuss their memories if him
  • Naguib Mahfouz and Criticism, exploring the most important trends and currents that have addressed his literature

The Cultural Programme includes a range of sessions, such as ‘Naguib Mahfouz: An Enduring Legacy’, ‘Naguib Mahfouz’s Descendants’, ‘Worlds of Naguib Mahfouz’, and ‘Naguib Mahfouz Novels in a New Format’, which introduces illustrated novels of the late author, to be published for the first time at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2024, among other sessions.

More Features This Year

At Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2023. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

As we reported earlier, the “book of the world” for this year’s fair is Kalila and Dimna by Abdullah Ibn Al Muqaffa.

‘Kalila and Dimna’

In parallel to the book fair, an art exhibition, From Kalila wa Dimna to La Fontaine: Travelling through Fables, will be hosted by Louvre Abu Dhabi to complement this literary exploration.

Kalila wa Dimna is one of the most prominent works from Arabic literature. It has earned the distinction of being among the four outstanding books alongside Al Mubarrad’s Al-Kamil; Al-Jahiz’s Al-Bayan wa al-Tabyin; and Ibn Rushd’s Al-Umdah. It serves as an excellent representation of the cultural synthesis between civilizations, based on its origin that combines languages such as Sanskrit from India, Pahlavi from Persia and Arabic elements.

The book is celebrated for influencing other cultures most notably the great French poet Jean de La Fontaine who drew inspiration from it in creating one of his finest fables, and the late Ahmed Shawqi, who crafted his significant collection for children based on it.”

There also are planned: a debate series; a podcast program including Thmanyah, El-Podcasters, El-Sharq Podcast, Bouh podcast, Micspod, and Arab Youth Podcast; a mural that references historical figures in world culture, Thmanyah Writes, the World Reads;poetry night” programs; an Arabic content forum for young readers; a corner for fans of the visual arts; a book market display based on Egypt’s historic Al-Azbakiya Wall Book Market; a “cinema corner”; a “lifestyle corner”; another focus “corner” on food; and a music program.

Publishing Perspectives, will of course have coverage from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, and you can review some of our almost 150 recent and past articles about the program and its influence here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center is here, more on Arabic literature is here, and more on translation is here. More from us on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. Our extended coverage of ADIBF 2024 is supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

More from us on Abu Dhabi International Book Fair:

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 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 was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.