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Egypt: 40th Cairo International Book Fair

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Egypt, Arts & Culture, Literature

I always love and wait for this time of the year. Apart from celebrating my birthday, it’s the coldest and most beautiful, a mid-year vacation all around the country. And there is always my special reason why I love this time the most – The Cairo International Book Fair.

On January 23, President Mubarak opened the 40th Cairo International Book Fair, where other 28 countries participated with books from over 743 Arab and foreign press houses, in addition to other side cultural events.

Egyptian Bloggers surely didn’t forget to have their say on such event, as well as the books it brought and their visit to the fair.

Bella, wrote in her blog “Afkar moba’athara [1]” or “Scattered Thoughts,” complaining about the high prices of books and the lack of organization.

كنت اعتبر معرض الكتاب احتفالية استعد لها بتوفير الاموال وإعداد قوائم بالكتب التي اريد شرائها
وبمرور الوقت وارتفاع اسعار الكتب تغير الوضع
ولكن اهتمامي بالمعرض مازال كما هو ولو اني اصبحت اضيق أكثر بالسلبيات الموجودة في تنظيمه والتي تدل على طريقتنا العبقرية غير المسبوقة في تنظيم هكذا احتفاليات !!!

I used to regard the Book fair as my festival. I'd save the money and care to write down my wishlist from year to year. As time went by and the prices increased, things changed a little. However, my passion for the fair stayed the same, though I get frustrated even more by the drawbacks in its organization.

Mokhtar El Azizi, an Egyptian translator wrote about “A trip to the book fair: humiliated citizen [2]”.

ذهبت إلى سور الأزبكية وقد بدا المكان أكثر تنظيما وإنسانية من ذى قبل، على الرغم أننى لازلت أرى أنه من الضرورى توفير مكان بسقف أسمنتى لتجار الكتب من سور الأزبكية والسيدة زينب. تم عمل قوائم وعوارض حديدية وشد عليها بأغطية بلاستيكية، وهذه الأغطية لا تمنع المطر عن الكتب بكفاءة. وبالفعل تضرر بعض العارضين هناك وأصاب المطر بعض الكتب. ولا أكاد أذكر أى سنة لم يهطل فيها المطر أثناء فعاليات معرض الكتاب.

I went to “Soor El Azbakya” [*] , and the place looked more humane and organized, unlike before. Already there has been made iron shelves, and plastic covers, but sadly these covers didn’t efficiently prevent rain from reaching the books. I barely recall a year in which no rain fell during the book fair that’s why I still believe its necessary to provide a place with a concrete roof for the book sellers from “El Sayeda Zeinab” and “Soor el Azbakya”.

أرضيات كثيرة فى المعرض بحاجة إلى التغيير، فالبلاط متآكل مما كوّن فخاخا طبيعية. أنا شخصيا اتكعبلت أكثر من مرة. معلوم أن أرض المعارض بمدينة نصر لا تستقبل معرض الكتاب فقط، بل معارض أخرى كثيرة، صحيح أنها ليست بحجم معرض الكتاب لكن المكان مفتوح طول العام ومرافقه تستهلك بشكل مستمر

The floor of the Exhibition halls need to be changed. I personally stumbled more than once. It is known that the exhibition centre in Nasr City does not just receive the book fair, but many other exhibits. True, other exhibits are not as big as the book fair, but it is open through out the year and so its facilities are consumed constantly.

Yehia El Masry, wrote in “My primary visit to the book fair this year [3]”:

النهاردة روحت معرض الكتاب دي تعتبر زيارتي الرئيسية الحاجة الوحيدة الكويسة إن المعرض النهاردة كان فاضي لكن في حاجة متلخبطة مش عارف أحددها لغاية دلوقت بس ممكن في الزيارة التانية تكون إتعدلت لأن النهاردة لسة أول يوم و معظم الدور الصغيرة كانت لسة بترتب الكتب

Today I went to the book fair and that’s supposed to be my first. May be being less crowded was the best thing about it this year, but I feel there is something wrong I can not comprehend until now. Probably it would be fixed by my second visit, since it was the first day in the exhibit and most of the books in the small halls weren’t placed in order yet.

In the meantime, it’s obvious that Bloggers’ books are taking the lead on almost everyone’s wish list this year. As Tarek Amr mentioned in his Global Voices Online post Egypt: From blogs to books [4], this year marks at least three main blogs transferred into books, for Rehab Bassam, Ghada Mahmoud and Ghada Abd El A’al in addition to other bloggers celebrating the publishing of their books.

The blogger and journalist, Yasser Thabet bought two new books: “Gomhoreyet el fawda [5]” or “Republic of chaos “ and “Kabl el tofan [6]” or “Before the flood” which is the same title of his blog published this year, where he wrote commenting:

على حافةِ الكون يقفُ المدوِن
ربما يكون باحثاً عن حقيقة ضائعة أو راغباً في لمس سقف السماء بإحساسه وترصيع ملابسه بنجمةٍ أو أكثر، أو حالماً بحرية النفس أو الوطن.

On the edge of universe, stands the blogger.
Perhaps looking for the truth or willing to touch the skies with his senses, to decorate his clothes with a star or two, or wishing to liberate the soul or the homeland.

Mohamed Ebeeh, wrote in “Mn nefsy [7]” about other four books for himself and his colleagues in an Egyptian online magazine “Bos w Tol”.

“Doaa Samir” , “Hob b lon el Banafzeg”, Love in lilies.
“Ahmad Amar”, “Hanen”, Nostalgia.
“Hossam mostafa”, “Yawmyat Modares fl aryaf”, Chronological of a teacher in the country side.
And for “Mohamed Ebeeh”, “Azizi.. 999”, Dear.. 999.

As for myself, and apart from all the complains above; hopefully I’ll go tomorrow morning, and on my wish list few books for modern Arabic literature, biographies and political book writers, in addition to few Current English novels: Mohamed el Maghzangi, Abd El Wahab El Mesery, Amin Ma’aloof, Bahaa taher, Edward Saeed, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sydney Sheldon and most importantly “Thousand splendid suns” by Khaled Hosseini as well as the Egyptian Bloggers’ books.

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[*] Soor El Azbakya: is a place where used books are sold at very low prices. Usually students go there to buy their books. During the book fair, the “Soor El Azbakya” is transferred from its original place in El Ataba to Madinet Nasr to make it easier for people to buy the books, used and new.