The buzz is on at the 23rd Muscat International Book Fair, which has more than 500,000 titles and 800 publishing houses participating. The activities of the book fair begins right from the open area of the garden of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre. There is street theatre by Omani actors as you enter. This is also where you get to see the Pavilion of Salalah, as the wilayat is the central focus of the book fair this year.
This open space also features the ATM machines and hosts long line of people who are eagerly waiting for their turn to collect the cash for shopping. In addition, countries are present to provide true cultural experience through books. There are series of workshops that happen on a daily basis and literary events that can be attended by general audience.
Authors interact with readers and enjoying the experience was the young poet, Ahmed bin Hamad al Haqmani who came all the way from Mahout.
“All the way from as far as Masirah but being here at the book fair — It is fulfilling to sign the book and hand it over to the reader,” said Al Haqmani.
Right at the entrance, next to Gate number 5, Ministry of Heritage and Culture has a corner that highlights on elements of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Oman inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“We thought this would be an interesting way of showing visitors the intangible cultural heritage of Oman including poetry, traditional art, cultural and social spaces like the Majlis,” explained Saeed bin Sultan al Busaidi, Deputy General Manager for Arts, Ministry of Heritage and Culture. Oman has seven intangible cultural heritage listed by Unesco, some of them registered exclusively as a single nation and others jointly with other GCC countries. Unesco has defined the “Intangible Cultural Heritage,” as the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills — as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith — that communities, groups and in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.
At the Ministry of Heritage and Culture’s corner one gets to recognize the exclusive art forms that have been registered such as Al Taghrood — a style of chanting performed during travels expressing their happiness and at times grief. It is traditional poetry echoing in melody.
The men while travelling to their destination on camels performed Al Taghrood which begins with a creation of a short poem, which is then improvised and repeated by other travellers.
The other example is Al Azi — spread throughout the Sultanate just like Al Razfa that highlights the sense of identity and pride, Al Ayyala — the poet of Al Ayyala taught poetry and others lined up in two rows facing each other repeat after the poet, while Al Bar’ah is the popular dance form from the Dhofar Governorate.