Sights and Reports from Another Booming Book Event in the Emirates: ‘Al Ain Reads’

The Emirates is growing an ever-expanding list of literary events, from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair to the Emirates LitFest in Dubai to the upcoming Sharjah International Book Fair. The rapidly expanding Al Ain Reads Book Show just wrapped up its sixth edition yesterday. While it isn’t an international event, it is attempting to make its mark:

By Alexandra Milton

Al Ain Reads Book Show, organized by the National Library Division of Abu Dhabi’s Tourism and Culture Authority, wrapped up yesterday after an auspicious week-long run at the Al Ain Convention Centre, Al Khabaisi.

The program for this year’s event proclaimed it a “celebration of the Emirati writer” and included daily panel discussions, lectures, and readings on the social and cultural impacts on an intellectual upbringing with 20 Emirati writers. These included Lamis Yusuf (Stone, Paper, Scissors) and Ali Abu RishSultan Al Amini,Saeed Al BadiNasser Al Neyadi, Lulwah Al Mansouri, Zainab Amer, Merriam Al Saadi, and Hareb Al Dhaheri, along with other poets, novelists, short story writers, screenwriters, and journalists.

The Book Exchange occupied a central table at the event and represented one of the few adult book sections of the Book Show. Among the 70 publishers and distributors, the vast majority showcased children’s books and learning tools, consistent with the emphasis on The Children’s Creativity Corner. The Corner was intended to provide tools to children with special needs and their families through daily themed workshops with the guided expertise of local individuals, companies, and charitable institutions.

The Book Show has grown exponentially in just a few years and, from discussions with venders, appears to be becoming somewhat of a precursor to the much larger Sharjah International Book Fair.  In 2009, Al Ain Reads was hosted in a small section of the Bawadi Mall with just over 25 exhibitors, and now, just five years on, it occupies an entire hall of the Convention Centre with nearly three times the exhibitions and a real focus on meaningful and enriching events.

This has translated into increased support from the community, amongst both families and local professionals, who showed up this week in large numbers to buy books and participate in events. It will be interesting to observe the continued evolution of Al Ain Reads Book Show in the coming years.

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