Since their launch and expansion, the two big big book fairs in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have attracted the most attention from non-Arab publishers. But Cairo is now attempting to throw its hat into the ring with the city’s first-ever professional program:
In early 2015, the Cairo International Book Fair will launch its first-ever professional program. The program’s set to be held from January 29 through 31, on the eve of the city’s 47th fair.
The Cairo book fair, which boasts two million annual visitors and more than 700 publishers, has seen hard times in the last several years. The fair was cancelled in 2011, and the fairs that followed have each had their organizational challenges.
But Egyptian politics isn’t the only hurdle facing a professional program in Cairo. A number of international publishers are already attending Arabic-focused book fairs in Sharjah or Abu Dhabi.
But Sherif Bakr, a member of the Egyptian Publishers’ Association (EPA), says the Cairo program can work. Bakr is part of an EPA subgroup that has been pushing the new professional program.
In launching a professional program, Bakr says, Cairo is not aiming to compete with the well-funded fairs in Sharjah or Abu Dhabi. Instead, “we actually hope to cooperate.” The Cairo fair, which is traditionally held at the end of January and beginning of February, is nestled between the Sharjah (November) and Abu Dhabi (April/May) fairs. In this way, Bakr suggested, “It would be another chance for foreign publishers to discover the area with a different taste.”
It’s also true that, while the saying is “Egypt writes, Beirut publishes…,” it is Cairo that has the largest number of publishers in the region. And the Cairo fair, Bakr said, “has a better variety” of publishers, “especially with independent publishers and newcomers who are really changing the publishing scene in Egypt and the Arab world.”