Jeddah sees a confluence of cultures

10-day festival of book lovers ends on a successful note


Saudi Gazette


More than 475,000 people visited the fourth edition of the Jeddah International Book Fair, which came to a close on Saturday evening.

The 10-day event, with the theme “Book is tolerance and peace,” was a confluence of cultures with people from all continents attending. It was also a rich cultural bonanza for book lovers from the western region of Saudi Arabia.

The concluding day witnessed excellent folklore performances by Yemeni artists among others as well as the staging of the traditional sword dance Ardha.

Jeddah Governor and Chairman of the Festival’s Supreme Organizing Committee Prince Mishal Bin Majed said the festival was a great success after having a tremendous response from all segments of society, especially youngsters, and it brought about novel ideas keeping pace with the Saudi leadership’s aspirations to strengthen bonds of culture and spread innovative ideas.

The fair, with around 50 diverse cultural, social and recreational programs and activities, has provided enthralling and exciting experience to Jeddah residents and visitors. There were 180,000 titles on display and the participants included 270 foreign and 130 Saudi publishing houses.

The fair was successful in fostering the elements of innovation and diversity in the enrichment of knowledge and educate the community to develop their knowledge and encourage them to read more by turning to books.

Abdullah Al-Kenani, supervisor general of the Agency for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Media, said the major highlight of this year’s fair was the display of treasures of heritage, folklore arts and theater performances from various countries. These included Jordan, Palestine, Sudan, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, Britain, Finland, the United States and Mexico.

“This is in addition to over 60 workshops of plastic arts, photography, Arab calligraphy, seminars and 55 dramas on various social, cultural and family themes. The fair witnessed screening of cartoon films from Britain, Finland and other countries as well as a seminar on “Saudi Arabia in the eyes of expatriates.”

Al-Kenani said the fair also witnessed a photo gallery featuring the environmental diversity of the United States.

The pavilion of the Institute for Learning of Non-Arabic Speakers at Princess Nora Bint Abdul Rahman University was a major attraction. It showcased calligraphy in various languages such as English, French, Chinese and Urdu. It also included calligraphic portrayal of the names of Saudi kings from King Abdul Aziz to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman.

There was a corner where the visitors from different countries got calligraphic images of their names in their own language.

Dr. Nawal Al-Thunayyan, dean of the institute, said the pavilion showcased the university's message of presenting the true image of Saudi Arabia, the promotion of Arabic language and the exchange of cultures with the participation of its foreign students.

Many publishers expressed their happiness over the success of the festival, saying the people of Jeddah embraced the fair wholeheartedly and there were no major negativities or drawbacks. They appreciated the meticulous preparations and smooth arrangements for the festival, which were the best compared to the previous years.

They praised the timing of the festival during the mid-term school vacation as it resulted in a huge flow of book lovers and vacationers, mainly families.

Hassan Yagi, a publisher, said the festival coincided with moderate weather. Ramzi Bin Rahouma, another publisher, said diversity was the hallmark of the festival, which is not seen in many similar festivals.

The media committee for the festival won accolades for the elaborate arrangements for the wide coverage of the event by making use of all means of the media. The fair’s Twitter account witnessed over 2 million visits. Ten television channels, including two international and five Arab ones, participated with over 300 live transmissions while 85 online newspapers joined the local newspapers in giving coverage to the festival.

A large number of young Saudi men and women were among the visitors. Najla Muhammad, a student from Riyadh, said she used to visit the Jeddah book fair every year because of the availability of a large number of books that are not found in the bookshops. She prefers to buy electronic copies of the books, especially religious books and novels.

Jumana Wali, an avid reader of novels, sees the Jeddah fair as a big platform for live interaction between the author and the reader. The festival saw the presence of 200 authors signing books sold to readers.

Ahmad Al-Johani, a student of King Abdulaziz University, said he used the festival to pick the best books on his favorite subjects of self-development, psychology and business management.

The digital revolution has devoured the bookshelves of most university libraries in the Kingdom, the academics pointed out in seminars held on the sidelines of the festival. The KAU made available three million e-books and over 275 databases, it was stated at one of the seminars.