Signaling a groundbreaking achievement for the UAE and the Arab world, Sharjah has been crowned with the prestigious ‘World Book Capital’ title for 2019 by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The honor is recognition of the emirate’s pioneering role in supporting and expanding the local and regional publishing industries, promoting reading to become an intrinsic cultural practice, as well as embracing intercultural, knowledge-based dialogue.
Another feather in the cap
The accolade is an important addition to Sharjah’s existing portfolio of milestones like, Capital of Arab Culture (1998), Capital of Islamic Culture (2014), and Capital of Arab Tourism (2015). More so, the emirate is the first in the GCC and third in the Arab world and Middle East, to have received this recognition.
An international committee of UNESCO experts reached the decision at a meeting held at the Headquarters of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) at La Haye. Sharjah has been chosen for the quality of its literary and cultural activities, and for its unfailing efforts to make books accessible to the entire population of the nation.
Sharjah is the 19th city to become World Book Capital. It was preceded by Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Antwerp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007), Amsterdam (2008), Beirut (2009), Ljubljana (2010), Buenos Aires (2011), Yerevan (2012), Bangkok (2013), Port Harcourt (2014), Incheon (2015), Wroclaw (2016), Conakry (2017) and Athens (2018).
Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of the Emirates Publishers Association, Head of Sharjah’s World Book Capital Organizing Committee, said: “We are so proud to have been recognized on a global scale for literary excellence, and having our name being put on the same platform with some of the world’s frontrunners in the world of books and reading. This signals a fruition of the momentous project that was established four decades ago by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. His Highness has led efforts of both institutions and individuals working to shape the emirate’s cultural identity with knowledge and books. It is his strong belief in intercultural dialogue as a means to advance local communities that has led to the establishment of a tolerant, culture-loving society in Sharjah.”
Sharjah’s annual cultural calendar is packed with programs and activities. It hosts more than 1,500 publishers from across the world at SIBF. Another premier cultural event is the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), which is dedicated to fostering a love of reading and knowledge among children through innovative and interactive methods. The festival features celebrated international authors, more than 2, 000 events and attracts over 300,000 visitors annually.
Sharjah has also launched crucial initiatives and pilot projects to achieve its vision to promote maximum community involvement in reading. Knowledge without Borders (KwB) is one such example, which has established free home libraries for 42,000 Emirati families last year.