It’s a big dream come true: Prince Khaled
In an unprecedented response to the call of Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, adviser to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, a large number of book lovers, including many young Saudis, thronged the pavilions of Jeddah International Book Fair on Saturday, the first day for visitors in the 11-day event that was inaugurated on Friday night.
“It’s a big dream come true… Please visit the fair at least once, so as to embrace ‘Read,’ the first word revealed in the Holy Qur’an,” Prince Khaled said while speaking to reporters after inaugurating the fair.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, many visitors lauded the organizers for the unprecedented and meticulous arrangements made for the festival of reading fans that came to Jeddah after a hiatus of nine years.
Several cultural and literary activities are being held on the sidelines at the venue, covering 20,000 square meters at the Events Land in South Obhur.
More than 440 publishers from all over the world are participating and about half a million books in different languages from 22 countries are showcased.
The festival came as a realization of a big dream of Prince Khaled, who is also an eminent poet, avid painter and patron of arts, to organize such an international cultural event.
“On behalf of myself and the people of Jeddah, I thank Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman for realizing this dream. I am also thanking Prince Mishal Bin Majed, governor of Jeddah and chairman of the supreme committee for the Book Fair, and Adel Al-Turaifi, minister of culture and information, for working hard to realize this dream,” Prince Khaled said.
“The cultural activities are an imprint of Saudi Arabia in general and the Jeddah city and Makkah region in particular. It is imperative for us to embrace the essence of ‘Read,’ the first word revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), and the Qur’an is the greatest book ever,” he said while underscoring the need for “translating into action what the Qur’an teaches and what Almighty Allah wants from a Muslim by scaling the ladders of knowledge”.
Prince Khaled called the festival an embodiment of efforts to organize the event in an elegant style. “And hence, Saudi citizens shall take advantage of each book exhibited in the fair.”
Addressing the inaugural session, Prince Mishal said the opening of the fair translates into action the directives of the Saudi leadership to disseminate the culture of knowledge, science, arts and literature, since they are the major ingredients of social and cultural life and strengthening the spirit of nation’s development by consolidating human interaction through books, which are the exemplary means to bolster the dialogue of cultures.
In his speech, Al-Turaifi highlighted the ministry’s keenness in promoting books in the wake of a huge decline in reading habits amid a proliferation of electronic devices. “A recent UNESCO report showed Arabs spend an average six minutes per day for reading against the global average of 36 minutes,” he said. Sheikh Saleh Kamel, chairman of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, lauded the efforts of Prince Khaled and Prince Mishal to organize the event on such a large scale.
After the opening, Prince Khaled and other guests toured the pavilions of the fair, which is designed as platform for creativity and innovation, especially for young writers.
A number of lectures, cultural seminars, story-telling and poetry sessions are being organized during the event. A poetic evening attended by Dr. Ashjan Hindi, and Haidar Al-Abdullah, and a seminar on “Experiments of some Arab men of letters and cultural figures in the Kingdom,” were held on Saturday.
The Kerala-based Islamic Publishing House (IPH) is the only firm attending the fair from India. O. Abdurahman, group editor of Madhyamam and MediaOne, and noted writer and academic Prof. B. Rajeevan arrived from India as guests of the Ministry of Culture and Information to attend the fair.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Abdurahman lauded the organizers for the mammoth arrangements for the fair. “I see this is a serious attempt from the holy land, where Qur’an was revealed with a call for reading, to associate the younger generation to the reading habit at a time when the IT gadgets distract them,” he said.
According to Rajeevan, there is every possibility for the fair to gain great global attention in its future editions. “The event will be instrumental in highlighting the significance of the Arab culture and literature among writers and cultural figures in other parts of the world,” he added.
The exhibitors put on display a large number of books on Islam, Arab culture, history, medicine, law, science and technology, mass media and communications, besides biographical accounts, fiction and short stories in languages such as Arabic, English, French, Turkish Urdu and Spanish.
Ahmed Al-Subaie, who was looking through books at one of the many stalls, said: “Book fairs are great places for buying books as there is so much on offer under one roof. It makes selection easy and the discounts are always good.”
He said he had a small library at his place to which he kept adding books. “I want my children and grandchildren to have a variety of reading material at their disposal, so I enjoy buying books as a hobby that I have developed after my retirement from work,” said Al-Subaie.
The book fair is jointly organized by the Makkah Governorate, Jeddah Governorate, and the Ministry of Culture and Information with Al-Harithy Company for Exhibitions. Concluding on Dec. 20, the fair is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for visitors.