"The best door to open the book to the East is the Sharjah Emirate Book Fair", the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, stated categorically at the conclusion of his visit to the Spanish pavilion at the 40th edition of the event, which coincides with the Golden Jubilee of the United Arab Emirates.
This Fair, considered the third in the world and of course the first in the Islamic world, was inaugurated by the Emir of Sharhaj, Sheik Sultan Bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, under the slogan "There is always the book you need". The consideration of Spain as guest of honour crowns the growing interest in Spanish language and culture throughout the Gulf area. "The demand for learning Spanish is more than a fad throughout the Arab world," Alberto Fernández, president of the Association of Teachers in the UAE and director of the UCAM in Murcia, whose language school is the only one accredited by the Cervantes Institute in the Gulf, told Atalayar. In the seven years that this institution has been in existence, the number of students has multiplied meteorically, "especially", he says, "because they identify more and more with their roots in Spain, which is why the Spanish pavilion has a mural display of the Arab legacy"
Miriam Llano, vice-president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the UAE, considers it a milestone that at the official opening of the Fair by the emir of Sharjah, more Spanish than English was spoken, in a territory where English is effectively the second language, and with great advantage. "Spain is increasingly seen here as a cultural destination as well as a tourist destination", stresses the Spanish Embassy's Tourism Counsellor, Daniel Rosado, who points out that since last July the flow of tourists from the UAE has taken off again after the slump caused by the pandemic, and when 2019 closed with a total of 121,000 Emirati tourists to Spain, a large part of whom, in addition to Marbella, Madrid or Barcelona, are going to other destinations that they consider related, such as Cordoba, Granada or Toledo.
Children's literature, poetry, theatre and novels make up the bulk of the Spanish contribution, which will be attended by around twenty publishers, and which will feature as many authors as possible from their respective imprints until the closing of the event. The first to arrive is Ramsi Jazmati, a man from Pamplona of Syrian origin, who will be presenting his work 'Leadership of the Emirati woman', a true dissection of the role that women are playing in the take-off and consolidation of the leadership of the Emirates in all fields of knowledge. "To understand the essential features of this kind of leadership, one only has to look at the dizzying and increasingly spectacular growth of the city of Dubai," explains the author.
In the anthropological study of Arab culture with which he qualifies the book, he points out that "women enjoy recognition both from a leadership perspective and in other spheres, so much so that the promotion and defence of Emirati women's rights have become a matter of great public importance". When asked for a truly distinctive and differentiating feature of Western women, Ramsi Jazmati points to their "total inner balance as daughter, woman, wife and working person, a balance that we do not see occurring with the same harmony in the realm of what we commonly call the West".
The Emirate of Sharjah has decided to commit to culture without stepping on the toes of the other six members of the Union. Thus, within the framework of the Fair itself, it is holding a Conference of African Publishers, which has already established the creation of an economic fund to promote reading among children as an essential vehicle for their better education in remote communities, in the hope that they will lead them in the future and know how to make them more prosperous. The most visible result in this respect is the large supply of children's literature.
The Etisalat Prize, considered one of the highest literary awards in the Islamic world, was also awarded. A total of five works were awarded 180,000 AED (43,000 euros) each. The aim of the prize is to promote the positive values of Arabic literature, and to encourage children to use their creative talents.