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Sharjah Named World Book Capital 2019 by UNESCO

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Quran Roundabout in Sharjah, which has been named World Book Capital 2019. Credit: TripAdvisor

By Phil Harris

ROME | PARIS (IDN) – Signalling a major achievement for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Arab world, Sharjah has been named World Book Capital 2019 by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The honour is recognition of the emirate’s pioneering role in supporting and expanding the local and regional publishing industries, promoting reading to become an intrinsic cultural practice, as well as embracing intercultural, knowledge-based dialogue.

The award was announced at a meeting in The Hague of an advisory committee comprising representatives of the International Publisher’s Association (IPA), the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and UNESCO. | GERMAN |

“I applaud the nomination of Sharjah as the World Book Capital as well as the efforts undertaken by the city in order to make reading available to as many people as possible, in particular the marginalised populations, as a motor for social inclusion, creativity and dialogue,” declared UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

According to IPA President Michiel Kolman, “Sharjah has emerged as a regional beacon of culture and literature … Sharjah is a deserving winner, and I am sure it will deliver a stunning programme in 2019.”

The UNESCO recognition is also partly due to the efforts of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, chairperson of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, the first Emirati publishing house dedicated to publishing quality Arabic titles for children.

Sheikha Bodour is the founder and patron of both the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) and the Emirates Publishers Association (EPA), having been re-elected as chairperson to the latter earlier in 2017. In 2009, she launched the ‘Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature’, the largest and most prestigious children’s literature award in the Arab world.

Reacting to news of the award, Sheikha Bodour said: “We are so proud to have been recognised on a global scale for literary excellence, and having our name being put on the same platform with some of the world’s frontrunners in the world of books and reading. Sharjah has now reached a point where it can be safely said that it is a driver of knowledge in the region.”  

Sharjah’s year as World Book Capital will officially begin under the theme of ‘Read – You are in Sharjah’, a programme focusing on six themes: inclusivity, reading, heritage, outreach, publishing and children. Among others, a conference on freedom of speech, a contest for young poets, workshops for creating Braille books and tactile books as well as many events for Sharjah’s multi-ethnic population will be organised.

The city’s objective is to foster a culture of reading in the United Arab Emirates and give rise to new initiatives to meet the challenge of literary creation in the area and in the rest of the Arab world.

Running parallel to this chain of events, Sharjah will also launch Sharjah Publishing City, a space entirely dedicated to publishing and printing. It will be the first place of the kind in the region, specifically developed to meet the needs of companies and institutions operating in the publishing field. Its objective is to reinforce the book industry by encouraging the widespread production and dissemination of publications in the Arab world.

Sharjah already hosts more than 1,500 publishers from across the world at the Sharjah International Book Fair, while it also organises the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival which attracts over 300,000 visitors annually.

The city has also adopted a proactive strategic vision to develop and galvanise the publishing sector in the region – an approach that has been reflected in the decision to establish Sharjah Publishing City.

Sharjah is the 19th city to become World Book Capital. It was preceded by Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Antwerp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007), Amsterdam (2008), Beirut (2009), Ljubljana (2010), Buenos Aires (2011), Yerevan (2012), Bangkok (2013), Port Harcourt (2014), Incheon (2015), Wroclaw (2016), Conakry (2017) and Athens (2018). [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 June 2017]

Photo: Quran Roundabout in Sharjah, which has been named World Book Capital 2019. Credit: TripAdvisor

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