Young visitors take keen interest in the Al Ain Book Festival.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Held under the patronage of Sheikh Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Al Ain Region, Al Ain Book Festival 2022 (Nov. 14 – 20) concluded after welcoming 74,519 visitors at five cultural locations across the city.
The 13th edition, themed ‘All Eyes on Al Ain’, highlighted the UAE’s rich cultural heritage, while promoting Al Ain as a leader city for creative industries in the region. The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT - Abu Dhabi), conceived a new vision for the event, formerly known as Al Ain Book Fair.
ALC curated an events programme aimed at celebrating and highlighting the work of Emirati and Arab writers and creatives, both past and present. The Fair hosted 130 exhibitors, more than 300 activities, including over 70 performances, 55 cultural seminars and activities, and over 200 children’s workshops and activities.
Throughout the week, Al Ain Square at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium was the Festival’s hub, hosting live music, performances, art shows and children’s workshops. Other activities took place at Zayed Central Library, Qasr Al Muwaiji, Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa and the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU).
Earlier this year, ALC had announced that publishers would be exempt from paying rental fees to the key book fairs and festivals it organises. The decision was part of the strategy to drive growth in the publishing sector in the Arab world, as well as to enhance recovery and support local and international publishers.
Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, ALC Chairman, said: “The Al Ain Book Festival, in its revamped edition, has been a great success in supporting our publishers, artists and authors, while also showcasing our rich Emirati culture and heritage. “Through this, we have continued our mandate to advance the Arabic language, while ensuring the destination of Abu Dhabi hosts a packed calendar of inspiring and informative events.”
The Main Stage Programme featured musical performances, celebrating both Arab and global cultures, including folk music and roaming entertainment shows. Some of the visitors’ favourites were the Lady of Fairy Tales stage show, the hypnotic Tanoura Dancers, the spectacular Chinese Dragon Show, the Golden Carnival and the traditional performance of the African Kodzo Drummers.
The Festival also celebrated the 52nd National Day of Oman on November 18. For the occasion, Omani folklore groups performed throughout the day and the Fair was visited by the Oman National football team. The celebrations culminated in a musical evening with renowned oud musician, Faisal Al Sari.
As part of the Children’s Programme, more than 200 activities were held, including storytelling and art workshops organised by the Abu Dhabi Children’s Library, the colourful Peter Pan Stage Show at Al Ain Square, and a Character Design Workshop with Emirati Manga artist Asma Alromaithi, also known as Asami Art. Among other activities for children and families was the Knowledge Challenge, which tested their understanding of Arabic literature and culture, Making Slime, and Music Drawing With Gerald Mercier.
Children also could learn about music in the workshops organised by Emirati pianist Iman Al Hashemi, while teenagers were given the chance to discover the future of Artificial Intelligence in daily workshops, and enjoy the digital corner activities. During the Festival, the ALC and UAEU signed an agreement to collaborate on a range of cultural and educational projects that promote the Arabic language.
The UAEU also hosted literary and culture seminars such as Emirati Children’s Literature: Between Inspiration from Heritage and Looking to the Future, and Forts of Abu Dhabi, Their History, Features and Functions. Education was also a key part of the programme at Bait Mohammad Bin Khalifa, with events such as How Do We Prepare Our Children for Education? and A Creative Family: Looking at Ways to Nurture and Inspire Creativity.
Additionally, as part of Men’s Health Awareness month, the Festival hosted a campaign of different activities, such as a walk around Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, partnering with Al Ain Club and the Faculty of Medicine at UAEU. The activities also included the celebration of International Students’ Day hosted by the UAE Students Association. Arabic poetry was a huge feature of the festival.
A pre-opening concert took place at Al Jahili Fort on November 12, enjoyed by 1,700 attendees, where the performers, including Hamad Al-Amri, sang renditions of traditional Nabati poetry. The Festival also hosted the prize ceremony of the first-ever Kanz Al Jeel (Treasured Sayings) Awards.
Launched earlier this year by ALC, the awards celebrated the increasing popularity of Nabati poetry, while honouring the legacy of the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who cemented the literary genre in the hearts and minds of Emiratis and Arabs. The Fair welcomed over 120 guest speakers, including the inspirational Asma Seddiq Al-Mutawa, Founder and President of the women’s book club Salon Al-Multaqa, who moderated several panel discussions.
Poet Sheikha Al Mutairi also hosted the panel discussion Shining Female Role Models, Emirati Women in Community Service. Dr. Parween Habib, media professional and author, hosted a session with the author and media expert Dr. Aysha Al Busmait, about her unique experience in adopting her daughters, as reflected in her book titled Motherhood by Choice. Al Ain Book Festival is due to return on November 14, 2023 with an even newer programme of discussions, workshops, performances and activities.
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