The Muscat International Book Fair in its 27th edition is no longer a locally limited cultural flagship event that Omanis eagerly awaited every February, yearly, but a destination for a flock of international authors, intellectuals and readers who want to relish the knowledge.
The eleven-day book fair opened its doors to visitors on February 22. Hosting Baria Alamuddin -- an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK- on the inaugural day of the expo augurs well to have a rich and diverse cultural programme that will see the participation of elite Arab and non-Arab figures.
The book fair features renowned personalities, including Ibrahim Abu Hashhash from Palestine, Ignatius von Weitenauer, Libyan writer Ibrahim al Koni, Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon, Eritrean novelist Haji Jaber, Sudanese novelist Ann Adil El Safi, Nayef bin Nahar from Qatar, Lebanese writer Issa Makhlouf, and many others.
The fair’s cultural committee, in collaboration with over twenty-four government and civil establishments, has organised nearly 140 cultural, literary, intellectual, social and investment events on the sidelines of the fair.
From a critical point of view, two things need to be taken into consideration. Firstly, event documentation is needed. In fact, no matter how in-depth those sessions were presented, and no matter how the audience had interacted with, they will remain unnoticed if there is no proper documentation.
For prolonged avail, records of these fruitful panel discussions are better to be available on YouTube or on the Ministry of Information’s AYN platform so the upcoming generations could refer to them when conducting studies or research.
Secondly, noise and reverberation issues, which make the experience uninteresting and the lectures delivered are hardly listenable.
I have seen some international fairs have soundproofed their venues. Meanwhile, concerts can be staged outdoors since they do not need a listener’s concentration, unlike the knowledge-overwhelmed lectures.
Besides the cultural events, the fair also features an array of artistic activities, including fine arts, music, theatre, cinema, painting, calligraphy, in addition to live concerts and various workshops.
It is so great to see youth presenting their artistic creativity freely, in a space of beauty, diversity and plurality. In fact, many youth-related initiatives have gained great attention. Take for example, this year; Vodafone Oman has funded ‘university student support initiative’, which is a civil initiative from which thousands of students do benefit annually.
Remarkably, Dr Abdullah bin Nasser al Harrasi, Minister of Information, was seen touring between pavilions of the fair, sometimes with intellectuals, writers and readers, and other times as a viewer.
In fact, I had hoped the ‘the university student support initiative” would cover job-seekers, laid-offs, people with limited incomes, and social security families.
Emerging from the importance of instilling a love of reading in kids, the organising committee has allocated a special corner for the children’s theater, and another corner for the children’s museum, which includes various events and activities, with a focus on science and creativity.
Funded by Mohammad al Barwani Charity Foundation, Akram al Ma’tawali’s initiative for Disability, themed “Let’s Read” was aimed at offering free books to people with disabilities.
Notably, the Omani writings are present in the book fair with about 500 books, and they are in race with Arabic writings in various genres and subjects, either philosophy, history, theatre, criticism, travels, literature, novel, story, heritage, religious investigations, economics, law or sociology.