10-day fest of words and fun starts today

The 24th edition of Muscat International Book Fair (MIBF) will be inaugurated at the Oman Exhibition and Convention Centre on Wednesday. As many as 882 publishing houses directly and 253 publishers through representing agencies are participating from 30 countries. This is against 878 publishers last year, a rise of nearly 0.5 per cent.
To be held under the auspices of Minister of Tourism Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, the opening ceremony will be attended by Minister of Information Dr Abdulmunim bin Mansour al Hasani, representatives of various ministries and public authorities and other key delegates. The ceremony will also witness cultural shows with focus on heritage.
This year’s book fair, which has Al Buraimi Governorate as the guest of honour, will have 35,000 new titles taking the total number of titles to 523,000 from nearly 30 countries. At this annual festival of letters, 48 official participants including representation from the Sultanate and worldwide along with 40 libraries and publishing houses from the Gulf, Arab and other foreign countries make up the overseas section.
“This annual event for books, readers and authors has become a much-sought-after cultural event in the region. It will not just be a book fair, instead it will be an occasion for writers and scholars to interact with the visitors, authors to sign and answer their readers, while children can thump through their favourite books,” Dr Abdulmunim bin Mansour al Hasani told the Observer.
The fair, which will be open to public from Thursday, will have several intellectual, artistic and cultural programmes until it comes to a close on March 2.
The total occupied area of the exhibition is 12,350 m2 comprising 1,129 pavilions. There will be locations allocated for official authorities and foreign books as well as children’s books and its allied activities.
The Sultanate will be represented by 122 publishing and agencies. The other participating countries and publishing houses are as follows: Egypt 154, Lebanon 81, Syria 74, Jordan 49, UAE 42, Kuwait 32, Saudi Arabia 19, UK 6, Qatar 5, Sudan 4, Tunisia 4, Turkey 4, Bulgaria 4, Bahrain 3, Iran 3, Morocco 3, and 2 each from Palestine and China.
One publishing house each from countries such as Italy, Libya, Japan, Sweden, Germany, Brunei, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will also be participating in the 10-day MIBF.

Reading growing
“There has been a steady rise in reading habit, especially among the younger generation. Of late, their craving to know more about literary works and authors has increased”, says Shouckath Ali, MD of Al Bhaj Books Oman.

The fair will be open from 10 am to 10 pm from February 21 to March 2 every day, except Fridays from 4 pm to 10 pm.
Male school students can visit on February 21, 25 and 27 (Thursday, Monday and Wednesday respectively) from 10 am to 2 pm while women and girl school students have their special days on February 24, 26 and 28 (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday respectively) from 10 am to 2 pm.

Oman Post, the national postal authority, has announced a new offer to all the bibliophiles and who wants to gift the books they buy from the OCEC during the fest. Accordingly, anyone who buys books can send them to their friends and relatives up to 3 kg for free.
“Our initiative of helping visitors send books for free is a way of supporting those who love books and reading by taking care of their parcels to their dear and near ones”, said Rashad al Wahaibi, marketing specialist at Oman Post.

Mwasalat, the public transport company, will run several services back and forth the venue every 20 minutes from morning till late night which will be a great boon for those who want to make it to one of the largest festival of books in the region. These buses will start from Ruwi depot to Rusayl via the iconic OCEC and back giving visitors the freedom to travel according to their need throughout the fair.