The Countdown for the Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) Has Started and It’s Bigger Than Ever

By Mahmoud Hossam

The Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) will be held from January 22nd to February 4th in the Egypt Center for Exhibitions and International Conferences in the Fifth Complex District. The ministry of culture has launched the fair under the slogan “Egypt Africa … The Culture of Diversity”, with guest of honor Senegal Republic and the iconic Egyptian scholar and geographer, Gamal Hamdan.

The 51st CIBF will consist of 900 publishing houses, 153 more than last year. The number of partitions will be 808, with more than 925 activities, 3502 participants and authors from 38 different countries. Those huge figures make it the biggest literary event in the Middle East this year. Here are some tips and tricks to help you enjoy the fair and get the best experience possible out of it.

  • Try to prepare your list of books before going to the fair; As you can tell from the numbers, the book fair is massive and no matter how long you stay you will not be able to cover it all. Therefore, making an advance list of your required books and novels along with their publishing houses and locations will make it much easier for you.
  • Having a faithful friend in life is a wonderful thing, having a friend in a book fair is even more of a blessing. Bring a friend with you whose taste in books you trust and explore the place together, exchange your interests and perspectives while moving around stories, philosophies, history, and poetry. Merge your passions together and come out with a more optimistic outlook on life.
  • If you have time, try to go there twice; once at the beginning of the fair to collect the famous books before they sell out, and once again towards the end so you can enjoy the last-minute sales. It’s an old trick learned from my older brother and it’s well worth a try.
  • Lots of seminars and talks will take place during the fair. Go to the information desk and ask for the schedule, then highlight what you want to attend and arrange it accordingly to enjoy meeting up with your favorite writers.
  • El Azbakeya wall is participating this year with 41 different libraries and it’s a huge opportunity to collect all classics that you wanted to read but didn’t get the chance to. El Azbakeya wall didn’t participate last year which makes attendance this year even more essential. Make sure to pass by; it will be great chance to start your own classic collection.
  • Unlike the phrase, “the book appears from its title” this will not be so accurate there. The fair is a festival and an easy opportunity for all beginner writers to start their careers. However, the number of trial books, poetry and novels will partially take its place. So we recommend taking the time to read the reviews and recommendations on Goodreads before you decide to buy.
  • Luckily the long list of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (Booker) has just been released and it consists of 16 novels with a variety of Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese and Algerian authors. This can be a very good base for what you should put your eyes on during the fair and start your own Booker short-list.
  • At the end of the fair, The General Book Authority is going to award the winners of the following categories: Best Book Prize, Heritage award, Best Publisher Award, Best Translated Book and Best Translated Book for Children. And this would be an excellent chance to collect them all as the judgment comity are well-known experts.
  • Tom Hanks is publishing a book there. Yes, you read that right. The two-time Oscar winner, Tom Hanks, is participating in the CIBF since Karama House for Printing and Publishing in Egypt was able to obtain the rights to translate and publish “Uncommon Type” in Arabic!
  • The great Peter Handke, winner of the 2019 Nobel literature prize will also be present this year through Al-Arabi for Publishing and Distributing, which has announced the Arabic version of his novel, “A Sorrow Beyond Dreams”, translated by Heba Sharif. The novel is deep and dark as it is based on his mother’s suicide. The Austrian novelist is best known for “Offending the Audience”, “The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick” and “A Sorrow Beyond Dreams”, all of which you will find at the Fair.

At the end, just make sure you enjoy the ride. Float between the books, try to absorb the experiences of the authors, by all means, and always remember that a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only one.

We said this: We can’t wait

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