Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The 45th Cairo International Book Fair kicked off on Wednesday, January 22. A prominent part of the country’s cultural events calendar, this year’s fair will be held under the theme “Culture and Identity.” This theme will drive a number of panel discussions on Egypt’s Islamic, Coptic and Pharaonic identities and how they relate to Egyptians living in the 21st century.
The fair—considered the oldest and largest in the Arab world—will host publishing houses from 24 different countries from around the world, 17 of which will be from the Arab world, including Kuwait, this year’s featured country. A total of 755 publishing houses will be at the fair this year, with 518 from Egypt and 210 from Arab countries.
Ahead of the event, the head of the General Egyptian Book Authority (GEBA), Ahmed Mogahed, which is organizing the fair, announced that it will award ‘Best Book’ prizes for titles featured in this year’s event in a number of different categories, including novel, novella, poetry, science, culture, politics, art and children’s. A prize of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (2,871 US dollars) will also be given jointly by GEBA and the Egyptian Publishers Association to the Best Growing Publishing House at this year’s fair.
GEBA has chosen Egyptian man of letters Taha Hussein, known in the Arab world as “the dean of Arabic literature,” as this year’s literary personality. In the run-up to the event this year, GEBA announced that it would be printing new editions of 20 of his most popular works. Those works will also feature in panel discussions by critics in literary sessions as part of the fair’s event roster.
Other events held at this year’s fair include poetry sessions, children’s art classes, seminars discussing major novels, poetry and literary criticism, film screenings and a number of performances by folkloric dance troupes. A special event will also be held to commemorate the work of Ahmed Fouad Negm, a popular but controversial Egyptian vernacular poet, who died in December, and is famous for his critical stances towards Egypt’s last three rulers.
Some of the debut titles at this year’s fair include My name is Ultras, a book by Abdallah Commandos published by the Egypt-based Al-Masry publishing house, focusing on the Ultras, a group of die-hard football fans who played an important role in the country’s 2011 revolution.
Also featuring will be Alexandria Cilantro by author Karim Hisham, a collection of short stories and poetry, and Ababil by Sherif Abdel Hadi, a novel dealing with corruption in Egypt’s judiciary, the first novel published by the Al-Rabea’ Al-Araby (The Arab Spring) publishing house.
The fair’s organizers have insisted the event will remain open on January 25, the third anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 revolution. That year the fair, which is held annually during the last week of January, was closed due to the protests that engulfed the country.
The 45th Cairo International Book Fair runs until February 6 at the Nasr City Fairgrounds in Nasr City, Cairo.