After my past experiences at Riyadh International Book Fair, and considering that I have recently visited Beirut and Cairo, you can expect that I’m not so enthusiastic about our annual cultural bonanza this year.
The truth is, organizing this event for the first time in 2006 was a bold move by the Ministry of Information (MOI) and was groundbreaking on some levels: temporary amnesty on banned books, interesting speakers and heated debates about pressing issues at the other activities accompanying the fair.
Unfortunately, it did not last long. MOI have been obviously intimidated by the aggressive reaction of the conservatives and decided to opt for the path of least resistance: to avoid provoking the anger of conservatives (who are easily provoked by many, many things, btw) they chose to organize an ordinary book fair with conformist speakers discussing noncontroversial topics. Actually, I have read that some people this year were cruising the fair collecting books they don’t like in trolleys!
I am disappointed to see MOI intimidated this way because I thought they were up to something really good. But my lack of enthusiasm should not stop you from paying a visit to the big show. I think it is still a good chance for Saudis to get exposed to this wide spectrum of ideas offered by thousands of books at one place.
Although I wasn’t planning to buy any books, I ended up with a few good ones. As usual, Lebanese publishing houses have many interesting titles to offer, and you may also want to stop at the booth of the National Society for Human Rights and grab a copy of their excellent first report on the state of human rights in the Kingdom.
The Riyadh International Book Fair is open until Friday, March 14, at the Riyadh International Exhibition Center in Morouj Dist. up north the city. Parking spaces of the Center are reserved for VIP’s so I recommend you use the HyperPanda/Azizia Mall parking lot next to the Center. Consult this schedule to before going: the fair is open at different times for
professionals and general audience men and families, and believe me you don’t to go at the wrong time.