CAIRO: The 46th round of the Cairo International Book fair kicked off last week, with large daily turnout and formal opening attended by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab. With some scheduled speakers missing and lines snaking around blocks with no apparent organization, some participants have complained about poor planning.
The annual book fair, which hosts 280 publishing houses from 19 Arabic-speaking countries, 27 publishing houses from eight other foreign states and 533 publishers from Egypt along with the “Sour Al-Azbakia” Azbakia wall, has been held since 1969.
Long lines to enter the fair began in the morning, and stretched to the nearest Metro station, Ard Al-Maared, with participants having to undergo more than one security check.
An open discussion with well-known writer Bahaa Taher was supposed to take place at the book fair according to its online program; however, the symposium was never held and was apparently replaced with another writer without notice. Organizers were unable to give any information to The Cairo Post regarding why the change was made.
Saudia Arabia had been scheduled to be a country of honor at the fair, with a tent featuring books from the kingdom, but all ceremonies were cancelled due to the mourning period for late King Adbullah bin Abdul Aziz, who died on Jan. 22.
Earlier Saturday, the Culture Minster denied any official ban of works authored by Qatari-based Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, known for his support of the Muslim Brotherhood; the ministry said that the books were removed by individual publishing houses after visitors complained, and not as the result of top-down censorship.
The Cairo Post, however, witnessed some books by Qaradawi sold at Sour Al-Azbakia, which usually offers discounted used books.
The book fair is scheduled to continue until mid-February, and offers books in a number of different languages.