Ebtihal Mubarak, Arab News
Sunday 25 February 2007
Last Update 25 February 2007 12:00 am
JEDDAH, 25 February 2007 — The second annual 10-day Riyadh International Book Fair will kick start on Tuesday and will be showcasing not just publishing houses from the Middle East but will also host writers who will be available to meet members of the public at a series of scheduled events.
According to the Ministry of Higher Education, the book fair’s organizers, the event was officially listed among the world’s known book fairs by the Cairo-based Publishers Union last year. The fair will be inaugurated by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
This year’s fair is being organized by the Ministry of Culture and Information for the first time. Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani said: “The king’s participation in the opening session reflects his support for cultural and intellectual activities inside and outside the Kingdom.”
The exhibition, he said, has become one of the major annual international events and that more than 600 publishing houses will display nearly 200,000 titles and reference books in Arabic and other international languages.
Madani also said that 17 Saudi poets will be honored during the opening ceremony.
For the first time in the history of book fairs in Riyadh, the fair will be open to both sexes between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. for five days on Mar. 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8. The opening day and the rest of the five days will be exclusive for men.
Last year’s book fair was the first one to allow families to visit together and shop for books. At a press conference in Riyadh last Tuesday, Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs Abdul Aziz Al-Subayel said that the book fair was “open for families” and also “open for both sexes.”
Last year, writers Fawziya Abu Khaled and Alaa Al-Hathloul were verbally attacked by men who claimed they were members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice for signing books for visitors with their faces uncovered. “We have asked the commission to make their men to wear badges displaying their names this year. They have cooperated with us,” said Al-Subayel.