MUSCAT, Feb 13 – More than 523,000 titles from nearly 30 countries will be up for grabs at the 24th Muscat International Book Fair, to be held under the auspices of Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, on February 20 at the Oman Exhibition and Convention Centre. Dr Abdulmunim bin Mansour al Hasani, Minister of Information Chairman of the Muscat International Book Fair (MIBF), said the 10-day festival will also see seminars and symposiums.
“The book fair has been growing from strength to strength and has become a much sought-after festival of titles in the region. It will not just be a book fair. Instead, it will be an occasion where writers and other scholars will interact with visitors, while authors will sign and answer their readers.”
Official opening will be on February 20. Al Buraimi Governorate is the guest of honour. Intellectual, artistic and cultural programmes will be held during the festival.
The number of official participants is 48. The number of participants in the foreign book section is 40 libraries and publishing houses from the Gulf, Arab and other countries.
There are 882 direct publishing houses as against 878 in 2018. A total of 253 publishers are participating indirectly.
There has been an increase of 23,000 titles against last year, making the total to 523,000.
The total occupied area of the exhibition is 12,350 m2, including 1,129 pavilions. Additionally, halls for cultural events and expanded corners for children activities and cultural programmes have been allocated with an array of customised corners for community cultural initiatives.
“Reading habits among the children have not vanished but the medium of reading has changed. We have given due importance for online reading while allocating space for participants. Besides, there will be cultural cafes in a number of pavilions,” the minister added.
At the level of community initiatives, the minister said: “The book fair annually celebrates community initiatives and there is a team headed by Vice-Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) for this purpose. There will be more than 20 community initiatives, and the best community initiative will be honoured at the end of the fair, based on that the winning initiative will be sponsored for one full year.”
“We have started to promote the principle of volunteering and it will be present at the Muscat International Book Fair. There will be 24 volunteers whose mission is to provide guidance and assistance to visitors,” said the minister.
Shaikh Hamad bin Hilal al Maamari, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture for Cultural Affairs, spoke about the cultural events. He said that there will be 106 cultural events this year compared to 64 events held last year, 22 of which will be on the Governorate of Al Buraimi.
American writer and journalist Thomas Friedman will also attend the exhibition, where he will present a lecture on his latest release. He will sign the book on February 22. Prominent names at local and Arab level will also attend the fair.
Yousef bin Ibrahim al Balushi, book fair director, spoke about the participating publishing houses and the organisational aspects of the exhibition, which include the basic standards and controls on intellectual property.
Al Balushi said seminars will be held on the sidelines of the exhibition.
He said that there will be seminars dealing with three historical figures who have contributed to human civilisation, adding that there will be a seminar entitled “Oman in the Arab and Foreign Writings”.
There will be a team to spot all the books about Oman in the Arabic and foreign publications. He also said that there will be a seminar on children, media and the future. The seminar will be co-sponsored by three parties, the MIBF, the Public Children’s Library and the Unicef.
The fair will be open from 10 am to 10 pm from February 21 to March 2 every day. On Fridays, it will be open from 4 pm to 10 pm. Some days are allocated for students. Accordingly, February 21, 25 and 27 are allotted for male schoolchildren from 10 am to 2 pm. February 24, 26 and 28 are reserved for girl schoolchildren from 10 am to 2 pm.
A total of 122 participants have confirmed from the Sultanate, Egypt 154, Lebanon 81, Syria 74, Jordan 49, the 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 Palestine and China 2 each.
Italy, Libya, Japan, Sweden, Germany, Brunei, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be represented by one publishing house from each country.