First Annual Arab Book Fair in Gezira Garden

The Inaugural Arab Book Fair opened on September 8th in the Gezira Garden in Cairo, hosting 120 Egyptian booksellers as well as publishers from around the region.  The event, which continues through September 18th, marks a new push in Egypt for innovative public/private partnerships in the midst of the revolution, which incidentally interfered with another book fair scheduled for last January.  The Book Fair has received support in the form of booths and space from the Ministry of Culture, yet the substance of the Book Fair is determined by the vendors themselves.

Walking through the tiered Garden area, right on the bank of the Nile on the island of Zamalek, the Fair had a familiar feel to it.  Authors and activists performed readings, families wandered through the aisles and shelves, and sellers themselves were eager to chat and welcome visitors.

Stores boasted copies of children’s books, test-prep guides, novels, historical tomes, political biographies, and entire tables of Naguib Mahfouz classics.

Talking to various booksellers, it was clear they felt the event could have been marketed more effectively, and were a little disappointed there were not more customers.  Today’s crowd ebbed and flowed, but by and large it was relatively quiet.  That may or may not have been due to the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was expected to make an appearance across the street, where throngs of people had gathered to welcome him.

Photos: Zamalek, Cairo – September 14.  Items at the Arab Book Fair include biographies of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander de Tocqueville, Milton Friedman, and Michelle Obama.  One booth featured “the first ever” guide to American slang, with Arabic equivalents listed, while another featured Arabic versions of “Dummies” guides.  Yet another table was entirely devoted to the Nobel Prize winning Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz.  On the waterfront pavilion at the base of the Gezira Garden, families and friends enjoy sundown in Cairo.

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