By: Nour El-Hoda Fouad and Maydaa Abo El-Nadar
Cairo, Jan. 15 (SEE)- Egyptian Minister of Culture Inas Abdel Dayem responded to many of the questions that was being asked about 2019 Book Fair and its Golden Jubilee.
Director of the General Book Organization, in charge of organizing the Book Fair, Haitham Al Hag Ali, also gave detailed answers at the press conference held to announce the event. Afterwards, they inspected the event’s new location at Egypt International Exhibition Center in the Fifth Sector; it lasted almost an hour and a half. Worth noting is that the Arab League is going to be the event’s guest of honor.
Here are some excerpts from the press conference:
• After being distinguished amongst our Arab neighbors, what do you think about the absence of reading and cultural recession in the Egyptian street?
The minister answered: We are not competing with our Arab neighbors. On the contrary, this cultural event aims at exchanging point of views and knowledge, for better communication. We are one nation, so we welcome all artistic and cultural booms in the surrounding areas. It is time to unite and be on the same level, in order to face the future’s challenges.
In regards to spreading culture and making the reading’s role effective, it is the responsibility of both: the Ministry and the whole society. A vivid example is the affordable prices of books issued by the General Book Organization despite the lack of good marketing. I would like to add that the success achieved by the Ministry is due to the efforts exerted by the previous ministers.
• After developing the Fair’s old headquarter (Ard El-Maared at Nasr City), is there any possibility to re-change the event’s location, in order to achieve the previous years’ success?
The minister responded: The Ministry cannot decide in this regard, as Ard El-Maared does not belong to it. Everyone in charge wished to present the event in the best form.
Ali added: Concerning the event’s success, the General Book Organization has been cooperating with the Ministry of Transportation, as well as Cairo Governance to provide direct lines to and from the event. Means of transportation are distributed amongst Cairo’s principal and important squares, including: Tahrir, Abdel Monem Riad, Giza, and Moasasa. The tickets price is from five to seven pounds. The Fair’s entrance ticket cost five pounds.
• What about the absence of the Ministry’s activities at schools, clubs, and public places?
The minister answered: We are cooperating with the following Ministries: Education, Higher Education, Sports and Youth to organize several activities such as providing the schools’ bibliotheca with what the Ministry’s issues. (The minister asked the journalist to suggest ideas about how to implement the project of providing gardens and public squares with books).
• On the occasion of celebrating the Fair’s Golden Jubilee, is there any exceptional award?
Ali answered: A new competition is being organized. We are going to announce its conditions s well as its prize money at the event’s opening ceremony.
• What is the situation of the forged books that are being sold at Sour Al Azbakia, foreign books, and the Muslim brotherhood publishing houses’ participation?
Ali also answered: In cooperation with censorship police and the Union of Egyptian Publishers, there are new conditions that forbid the participation of anyone proved to be selling a forged book. Regarding the Muslim brotherhood publishing houses’ participation, no publisher is forbidden as long as he follows the conditions.
• What about Sour Al Azbakia’s participation, bearing in mind that many visitors attend the Book Fair thanks to Sour Al Azbakia’s cheap book prices?
Ali responded: Some of Sour Al Azbakia’s sellers are already present at this years’ event. They are allowed to take part as long as they follow the conditions. We are welcoming everyone who would like to participate as long as he adheres to the participations’ conditions. I would like to add that there are projects to issue important books at low prices that start from three pounds.
• Would the new location’s space be enough for all participants at this prestigious event?
Ali commented: Space was never an obstacle, and all, participants who meet the conditions are accepted. Comparing the past year’s participation of publishing houses to this year’s one, there is an increase by 20%.
• What about the participation of African countries?
Ali expressed: After an agreement with the African Publisher Union, there is a hall dedicated for Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria that are taking parts for the first time.
• What is the cultural message of this year’s Book Fair?
Ali mentioned: The message focuses on children and persons with special needs.
Commenting on the Arab League’s participation, the League’s Assistant Secretary Haifaa Abou Ghazala said, “The Participation of the Arab League as a guest of honor, especially after also being a guest of honor at Frankfort’s Book Fair in 2004, confirms the League’s cultural role that strengthen relationship between the Arab countries.
She added “The League’s message, at this year’s event, is going to be about the Arab joint work’s achievements and the League’s activities in various fields.”
President of the Arab Publishers Union Mohamed Rashad expressed: “I believed that Ard El-Maared is too modest to host such a prestigious event. At the Book Fair’s previous editions, there should have been services for the publishers and visitors’ commodity. So I would like to thank the minster for re-locating the Fair’s headquarter.”
The Egyptian Publishers Union’s President and Head of Dar El-Maaref Publishing House, Saed Abdu, added “The Fair’s Supreme Committee promises the absence of all kinds of violations. No forged book is going to be there.”
2019’s Book Fair is going to open its doors on the 24th of January, a day after the opening ceremony that is going to be celebrated a day before. After her tour at the event’s location, and inaugurating the most important halls, the minister, along with senior writers and intellectuals, are going to attend the ceremony.