It is a well-established (albeit unofficial) fact that Sharjah places first in the cultural race of the Emirates.

HH Sheikh Dr Sultan Al Qassemi has made sure of it. With more than 15 museums under its wing and a number of galleries and cultural precincts to have sprung up of late, it should come as no surprise that the Emirate is racing to the forefront of literary circles as well.

October 26th 2010 marks the opening of the 29th anniversary of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), and this year the Emirate is pulling out all the stops. What started out almost three decades ago as a programme solely for Arab readers, this humble literary fete has evolved into a considerably large channel for Arabic, English and now recently incorporated foreign titles as well.

The Sharjah Expo Centre will as always, play host to this annual event, drawing a total of 750 publishers showcasing books from nearly 42 nations, until its close on the 6th of November.

Known to attract over 400,000 GCC visitors each year, this year’s edition promises nothing less.

Doors open Saturday-Thursday from 10am-10pm and on Friday from 4pm-10pm, with a slice of literary cake for all young, old, Arab-speaking (or reading) and non; for although the Arabic element takes centre-stage, there’s much to keep the non-Arab readers plenty occupied as well.

Tagged with the slogan “For Love Of The Written Word,” the campaign’s primary focus is to encourage (if not instil) just that; the love of reading, literature and all that it encompasses.

And to achieve that goal the SIBF has arranged for not just a smorgasbord of titles at discounted prices, but has also scheduled a line-up of talks by prominent speakers throughout the course of the fair.

Among the confirmed literary personalities to make an appearance, are:

* Zohra Saed & Sahar Muradi – American/Afghan lecturers and authors of One Story, Thirty Stories and An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature will be speaking on “Writing & Identity from an Afghan/Female/American Perspective!”

* Samar Jarrah – Author of Arab voices speak to American Hearts has titled her discourses “How social media is changing the Hearts and Minds of Americans about Arabs and Islam” and “Can Radio Promote authors and Books?”

* Yasmina Jraisatti – First European based Arabic literary agent will focus on “Arabic literature on the international scene: how visible? – A literary agent’s point of view” and “I have a dream! – A collaborative web platform for Arab books.”

* Shelina Janmohammed – Number one best-selling author of Love in a Headscarf will give an “Author talk on Love in a Headscarf”, “An intimate dialogue: A Muslim woman's Journey” as well as a bonus “Masterclass: First steps to writing your story.”

Also interesting to note is that Octavia Nasr (Ex-Anchor of CNN’s World Report turned media consultant) will be making a high-profile appearance, and is scheduled to speak on the inaugural day.

Quite an impressive line-up indeed, and no reason to not pay a visit.

So whether you’re looking to pick up on a few pointers from the greats of the publishing world, or just take advantage of the selection of discounted titles on sale; make sure you’re headed down/up to Sharjah this week (and the next).

For more information on the SIBF, either visit the official website on or look up updates on their blog at  Alternatively you could also look up their Facebook page, or follow @ShjIntlBookFair on Twitter.


By: Shaahima Fahim

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