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Sharjah - A City That Made Reading a Lifestyle
(8 July 2017)
Sharjah Ruler made the Emirate a prime destination for readers, intellectuals and publishers


The story of Sharjah’s momentous cultural experience began more than four decades ago, inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who realised the great value of culture and books at a very early age.

In a ground-breaking achievement, Sharjah has recently been crowned with the title of the World Book Capital for 2019 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), an honour that comes in recognition of the emirate’s 40 years of hard work and efforts to realise the vision of the Ruler. Over the years, Sharjah has steadily established itself as global cultural destination for intellectuals, writers, thinkers, and publishers.

With its longsighted vision, Sharjah today is leading the cultural advancement of the Arab world, based on a worldwide inter-cultural, knowledge-based approach.

The story began when the late Sheikh Mohammed bin Saqr Al Qasimi dedicated a gold dagger to his son, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi, who later mortgaged the dagger to buy books. With his thirst for knowledge, His Highness realised his dream of creating a culture-based capital, culminating in Sharjah being named the World Book Capital for 2019.

Sharjah’s image is reinforced through its unprecedented projects and pilot action programmes – since the inauguration of the first edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) in1982, it has grown over 35 years to become one of the top book fairs in the world.

Over this period, SIBF turned from a simple tent where a few Arab publishers and readers gathered, into a literary festival that annually attracts more than two million visitors from various corners of the globe and brings together over 1,500 publishing houses from many sisterly and friendly countries.

Besides SIBF and Sharjah’s influential cultural presence, the emirate of Sharjah is proud to be home to seven public libraries offering various sources of knowledge and books covering different genres of literature. The emirate offers a perfect environment for people to begin their journey into the world of reading through 600,000 books, periodicals, documents, manuscripts and other sources of knowledge in Arabic, English and several other languages.

The UNESCO honour signals the fruition of immense efforts spearheaded by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qassimi, Founder and President of the Emirates Publishers Association (EPA) and Head of Sharjah’s World Book Capital Organising Committee. The committee members include HE Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the Executive Board of the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), and Rashid Al Kous, former General Manager of Knowledge without Borders (KwB) and current Executive Director of EPA.     

Sharjah International Book Fair:

Over the past three and a half decades, SIBF has continued to introduce new initiatives, expand exhibition areas and attract celebrated Arab and foreign literary figures. SIBF has deepened and broadened its vision by transforming from an annual book fair into an integrated cultural project, making Sharjah and the UAE a cultural hub in the region and wider world.

SIBF’s 35th edition featured 1,581 publishing houses, showcasing more than 1.5 million books under the theme ‘Read More’, proving the journey into the world of enlightenment can be achieved by constant accumulation of knowledge, ongoing effort and hard work. SIBF’s success also showed that the immense value of nurturing new generations of readers and intellectuals.

Since its first edition, SIBF has made landmark achievements, most notably hosting UNICEF at its third edition, as the first international organisation to participate in the fair. Over the years, SIBF increased the number of displayed titles five times in five years, from 12,000 titles at the second session to 65,000 at the seventh.

SIBF expanded its vision during its 11th edition from hosting publishing houses to organising an associated intellectual and cultural program combining top Arab and global cultural celebrities.

Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival: Investment in Future Generations

Sharjah’s annual cultural calendar is packed with programmes and activities. Apart from its premier book fair (SIBF), the emirate organises Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), a leading cultural event dedicated to nurturing a generation of young readers with a passion for knowledge by fostering a love of reading and knowledge through innovative and interactive methods.

Since its first edition in 2008, SCRF has been keen to combine pleasure and education and promote reading as a means to encourage young generations to realise the vision of Sharjah and the UAE in terms of its literary strategies.

With every new edition, SCRF introduces and diversifies its programmes to promote reading and enhances the value of books. Due to its forward-thinking plan, SCRF 2017 attracted over 300,000 visitors who flocked to attend a total of 1,403 events featuring 55 guests from 22 countries, while its associated cultural programme included 40 events that saw the participation of more than 60 guests from 23 countries.

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