The Emirates is growing an ever-expanding list of literary events, from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair to the Emirates LitFest in Dubai to the upcoming Sharjah International Book Fair. The rapidly expanding Al Ain Reads Book Show just wrapped up its sixth edition yesterday. While it isn’t an international event, it is attempting to make its mark:

By Alexandria Milton

The event's sign.
Photo credit: Alexandra Milton

Al Ain Reads Book Show, organized by the National Library Division of Abu Dhabi’s Tourism and Culture Authority, wrapped up yesterday after an auspicious week-long run at the Al Ain Convention Centre, Al Khabaisi.

The program for this year’s event proclaimed it a “celebration of the Emirati writer” and included daily panel discussions, lectures, and readings on the social and cultural impacts on an intellectual upbringing with 20 Emirati writers. These included Lamis Yusuf (Stone, Paper, Scissors) and Ali Abu Rish, Sultan Al Amini, Saeed Al Badi, Nasser Al Neyadi, Lulwah Al Mansouri, Zainab Amer, Merriam Al Saadi, and Hareb Al Dhaheri, along with other poets, novelists, short story writers, screenwriters, and journalists.

The Book Exchange occupied a central table at the event and represented one of the few adult book sections of the Book Show. Among the 70 publishers and distributors, the vast majority showcased children’s books and learning tools, consistent with the emphasis on The Children’s Creativity Corner. The Corner was intended to provide tools to children with special needs and their families through daily themed workshops with the guided expertise of local individuals, companies, and charitable institutions.

The Book Show has grown exponentially in just a few years and, from discussions with venders, appears to be becoming somewhat of a precursor to the much larger Sharjah International Book Fair.  In 2009, Al Ain Reads was hosted in a small section of the Bawadi Mall with just over 25 exhibitors, and now, just five years on, it occupies an entire hall of the Convention Centre with nearly three times the exhibitions and a real focus on meaningful and enriching events.

This has translated into increased support from the community, amongst both families and local professionals, who showed up this week in large numbers to buy books and participate in events. It will be interesting to observe the continued evolution of Al Ain Reads Book Show in the coming years.

All photos by Alexandra Milton:

The Al Ain Convention Centre.
The Al Ain Convention Centre.
From the hall inside.
From the hall inside.
Journalist and poet Eman Mohammed (If Sidra Were Absent and the Sea Moved Away) in discussion with Hamdan Al Dirie.
Journalist and poet Eman Mohammed (If Sidra Were Absent and the Sea Moved Away) in discussion with Hamdan Al Dirie.
Panel discussion with Mohamed Wardi, Mohamed Khamis, and Sultan Al Rumaithi.
Panel discussion with Mohamed Wardi, Mohamed Khamis, and Sultan Al Rumaithi.
Sultan Al Rumaithi.
Sultan Al Rumaithi.
Emirates Writers Union stall
Emirates Writers Union stall
Books for younger readers.
Books for younger readers.

Alexandria Milton is a current PhD student with the Centre for Cultural, Literary, and Postcolonial Studies at SOAS, University of London.  Her research focuses on the development of short story criticism with an emphasis on aspects of spatiality and human experience in Middle Eastern, Latin American, and North American stories.  She holds a Masters degree in Near and Middle Eastern Studies with a focus on Arabic Literature.