Riyadh International Book Fair: Could Be Better

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.

9 thoughts on “Riyadh International Book Fair: Could Be Better

  1. ahmed u r right ,,, the writer al dawood could not enter the center last day because it was for family . and he wait for someone inside the fair to let him enter

  2. It had its shortcomings but I thoroughly enjoyed it. And considering that I have not traveled to an Arabic speaking country notorious for selling banned books in a while (e.g. Lebanon, Egypt) I was so very pleasantly surprised to find books I had been meaning to buy for months now and by my favorite authors too! I also managed to sneak a pic with Turki Al-Dakheel, despite possessing female sex chromosomes.

    Furthermore, given the steady rise of Japanese culture among our youth, I found the Jap-oriented lectures (and their turnout) more than inspiring. I attended one whose main topic was Japanese Animation and instead of finding a remiss, moldy crowd merely there for the free food and good air-conditioning like I had expected, I found a remarkably enthusiastic lot with -their own sketches in hand- actively participating, at one point, even granting standing-ovations to the Japanese guest, IN UNISON at his mentioning of their favorite series and/or Japanese directors, and at his proposition that Saudi Arabia opens Japanese learning institutions. I am perhaps one of the few (read: about five!) young Saudis left who have yet to become a diehard fanatic of anything Asian, but even *I* was inspired.

    Perhaps it is only the doe-eyed Pollyanna in me, perhaps I have accustomed to turning a blind eye to the malevolent-ones’ antics, but….. I found it wonderful, Ahmed!

  3. Just wanted 2 remind everyone here that the Bahrain Book Fair is going to start on this coming Thursday,13th at the Bahrain International Exhibition Center.

    & Thx Ahmed 4 sharing ur views on Riyadh Book Fair :)

  4. I so enjoyed the book fair! It was my first time (it was too crowded and they wouldn’t let us in the past couple of years) and I have to say I really was impressed.
    I was expecting harassment because I don’t cover my face, but no-one said anything. Very refreshing.
    Plus all those books in one room! :-)
    Loved it!

  5. Loved your description of your visit, I couldn’t have known these facts from newspapers or from any female visitor. This is actually why I started my own blog. we can definitely compare the progress of our society through these documented experiences. I’ve used some of your impressions in writing up my article for Al-Hayat newspaper. I’ll send you the link when and if published, keep up the good work!!!

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