Sharjah and Arab Culture
As the Guest of Honour at Feria Internacional Del Libro De Guadalajara 2022, Sharjah is proud to showcase the wealth of its leading achievements in the cultural and literary fields, accumulated over the past 40 years, under the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
Sharjah is the third largest of the seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Historically, Sharjah developed from a trading city relying on fishing and pearl diving, to one of the most modern and dynamic commercial and trade centres in the Gulf region. From around 5,000 years ago, when the first settlement of the city began, Sharjah has always been at the core of regional development. It was the most important port on the lower Arabian Gulf from the time trading began with the East into the first half of the 19th century. The emirate was also the first in the region to develop tourism and has been a growing destination in the Middle East since 1932 when international flights were operated out of its now historic airport.
Sharjah has always been one of the most progressive cities in the region - the first school in the UAE, Al Islah, was established in Sharjah in 1907, while the first library opened its doors in 1933. Furthermore, Sharjah became the first emirate to provide education to women in 1942.
Since the 1970s, the Sharjah Ruler’s far-reaching vision of sustainable development has fostered successive generations of well-read, compassionate individuals imbued with a sense of humanity and mutual understanding and the deepest love for books and culture. His Highness’ efforts have resulted in countless projects that have turned Sharjah into a publishers’ haven.
One of them is the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), which debuted in 1982 with the participation of 16 publishers. Today, it has grown into the third largest in the world. The 38th edition of SIBF in 2019 welcomed 2,000 publishers from 81 countries and over 2.5 million visitors over 11 days. It also set a Guinness World Record for successfully hosting the world's largest simultaneous book signing ceremony in one location with 1,502 authors from the UAE and beyond signing their own books.
SIBF comes under the remit of the Sharjah Book Authority which was launched in 2014 to highlight the importance of books in today’s multimedia world. Its many initiatives, big and small, have served to boost the UAE’s publishing industry, which is currently worth $260m.
One of its subsidiaries, Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone (SPCFZ), is the jewel in Sharjah’s crown and the first free zone for publishing, printing and allied businesses in the world. It houses more than 600 offices for industry professionals and a print-on-demand service, allowing publishers to print up to 10,000 books in 24 hours.
The Sharjah Public Library is one of seven libraries in the emirate and now welcomes about 120,000 visitors a year. Its digital section offers more than 6 million resources in more than 10 languages, including Arabic and English.
The city has also been hosting the annual Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival for 11 years, which is the Arab region’s first and only literary festival designed exclusively for young readers. In 2019, the 11-day fair attracted more than 200,000 visitors, and brought renowned authors, cultural figures, and 167 publishers from 18 nations around the world under its roof.
Over the years, Sharjah has accumulated a rich legacy of arts, heritage and culture, which subsequently prompted UNESCO to name it the ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab world’ in 1998, as well as the ‘Capital of Islamic Culture’ in 2014.
Sharjah has developed an international reputation for being a centre of knowledge and publishing in the Gulf and had the honour of being the 2019/20 UNESCO World Book Capital.
Sharjah has been taking the richness of Emirati and Arab culture far and wide, sharing its successful experiences in boosting the local and regional publishing landscape to global industry stakeholders, while enabling a vibrant exchange of art and culture between countries.
It is a matter of great pride for Sharjah to be the first country from the Middle Arab world to be hosted as Guest of Honour at FIL. It is a prestigious occasion for us to showcase the Arab culture and literature to Mexico, as well as the rest of the world. The Arab world thanks you for this wonderful opportunity.