I have just returned from eight days in Sharjah, one of the Emirates in the United Arab Emirates. As the guest of the Sharjah Book Authority, I attended the first six days of the Sharjah International Book Fair, where my mind was well and truly blown.
The Bookfair, one of the largest in the world, is like nothing I have ever experienced. With a combination of rights fair, literary festival, bookshops, cooking show, library seminar, kids’ section and more, it is hard to explain the scale of this event.
The massive Sharjah Exhibition Centre is filled with row after row after row of booths and stalls, from publishers from around the world, to booksellers, government agencies, cultural organisations and more. A Kids’ Activity area boasts smaller rooms where a wide range of activities from writing and illustration workshops, to science demonstrations and craft, an open area with lots of hands on activities and a theatre with stage shows. Last year the fair was visited by over 2 million people over its eleven days, and, if the first six days are anything to go by, this year’s numbers will be just as high. And not only do the people come, but they buy books (lots of books!) and participate enthusiastically in all of the events.
Twice each day I ran writing workshops in the kids’ area, with three different topics: Perfect Plotting, Writing A poem About YOU, and But I Don’t Know What to Write. At times my room was packed, with parents or children who had missed a spot participating through the open ‘windows’ of the room.
When I wasn’t running workshops I was lucky enough to meet other presenters from around the world and also chatted to publishers, booksellers, academics, journalists and more as I browsed the trade fair. It was fun, inspiring and, quite simply, amazing! I was sad to leave it behind, but, of course, happy to get home to my family. And I’m sure this won’t be my last visit to the wonderful Sharjah.
Here’s a little glimpse of some of what I managed to capture photographically.