As a step to enhance the local literary movement and support young Alexandrian writers and poets, the General Egyptian Book Organisation hosts its fourth annual Alexandrina International Book Fair for 10 days in Ard Al-Qota in the area of Al-Shatby.
The opening ceremony was held on 27 February and 105 local publishing houses participated as well as the Supreme Council of Culture, whose valuable publications are presented in the fair.
“The fair is open to anyone who wants to attend, for free,” head of the General Book Organisation Haitham Al-Hag said. “In addition to providing an opportunity for a large number of publishing houses to present their literary works and publications, the fair will also host a number of seminars, concerts, and poetry readings.”
The fair was also attended by Kitab and Raghof (Book and Bread) an initiative introduced this year in collaboration with the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade.
“The fair allowed some young Alexandrian independent artists to introduce their amateur musical bands to the audience, one of the secrets of the Cairo Book Fair’s great popularity from the very beginning,’’ founder of Alexandria Media Forum Ahmed Esmat said. “In my opinion, introducing a band like Oscarizma was one of the merits of the opening ceremony.”
Esmat however believes the Alexandria Book Fair faces a number of challenges which must be taken into consideration: “The main problem is the place where the fair is held. For the past few years, the fair was mainly organised in Abdel Wahab’s theatre, which wasn’t well prepared or equipped for hosting such a big event due to its limited space. Although the organisers moved the fair into the open area of Ard Al-Qota this year, we still face the same problem of limited exhibition space.”
In his opinion, Alexandria still does not have enough spaces to hold international fairs and exhibitions, unlike Cairo which has international fair grounds in Nasr City. Moreover the timing of the fair is another challenge. “Alexandria Book Fair comes after two major book fairs, one held in Cairo in January and the annual Book Fair of Bibliotheca Alexandrina,” Esmat said. “This makes people less willing to buy more books because they have already spent enough money at the other fairs. This also becomes very exhausting for the publishing houses who have to prepare to participate in different fairs at the same time.”
Despite the many challenges, Esmat still believes that any cultural event can play a crucial role in enriching the cultural and literary scene in Egypt. “We need to move the cultural initiatives to the forefront to be able to cope with the different cultural, artistic, and technological developments around the globe,” he said.
He believes moving the fair to Alexandria University would be a good initiative and would help increase the popularity of the fair among university students. “We need such enlightened initiatives to help overcome the centralisation of cultural movements in the capital,” he said.