Riyadh Book Fair ’09

While I sincerely hope that the Ministry of Culture and Information would drop the word ‘International’ from the name of what has become the most important cultural event in the Saudi calendar, I’m glad that the Riyadh Book Fair is back again. Seeing the crowds celebrate books and reading is heartwarming, regardless of whatever gripes I might have about the organizers and their approach. The book fair is taking place for the first time at the new Riyadh International Exhibition Center on King Abdullah Road, which is much nicer and much bigger than the old exhibition center in Morouj.

If you plan to come, you may want to stop by at our table in booth SA-60 where my friends and I are volunteering to sell the books of fellow blogger Hadeel al-Hodaif who passed away last year. The proceeds will go to charity. We are also taking the chance to promote the Hadeel Prize, which will be launched later this year.

I think the book fair this year is better than the previous ones, except, of course, for the usual kerfuffles by the religious police. After making a scene with Abdou Khal, Abdullah Thabit and Halima Mozaffar on Thursday, they made another scene last night when they decided that saleswomen are not allowed to be there on men’s days. All saleswomen were kicked out. I really don’t see the point of having the religious police in the book fair, but it is obviously part of the compromise deal the Ministry of Culture and Information had to make with the conservatives in order for the book fair to go on.

The Riyadh Book Fair is open until Friday, March 13, from 10 AM to 10 PM. Some days or part of them are open to men only, so make sure to check this page before you drive there. Oh, I forgot that women are not allowed to drive. Never mind. Just go, have fun and enjoy the books. And if you have any recommendations, please do share them in the comments. See you there.

35 thoughts on “Riyadh Book Fair ’09

  1. Is there book censorship? Or are Saudis allowed to read without interference? If there’s censorship, who censors the books? Ministry of culture or the religious police?

    Just curious.

    As for the driving thing. I have always wondered if women can ride camels? They did so in the Prophet (S) time, you know. The women should all ride on camels to the streets and roads and claim that it’s their religious right. I would be so up for something like that. It would piss the muttawa off, but you know they are going to have to come up with a good excuse to say no to this one and then you can call out the hypocracy.

  2. i tried to come in weekend but i couldn’t. i will come this Wed.

    i heared there were some action movies in the exhibit.

    and excellent work you do by the way, hope i will see you there when i come

  3. I went to the book fair on friday and I searched for Hadeel’s book but could’t find it, mybe because I was in a hurry :)
    I will come again and sure I will stop by, hope to see you there. Thanks for this post and letting us know where to find the book.

  4. prevented a Saudi woman writer from signing her book for men.
    Others who bought books were annoyed by the fact they were required to present their invoices at the gate on their way out, saying that it had caused unnecessary delay and overcrowding as everybody needed to acquire an invoice. A member of the staff,

    as quoted from the article ! i paused when i read those two lines… so vise versa if a girl wants an autograph from a writer… then… almost impossible ? i thought with the changes that happened a month back (almost) i expected more flexibility in the duties of the hay’aa

    we’d love to know your book recommendations anytime soon !

  5. I am jealous! I tried to visit but it wasn’t meant to be I guess, had a lot of work and I couldn’t make it. My best friend is sending me the books anyway :) Luckily me!
    Now, I am curious to know what titles bloggers recommend, what is on your list, and what books are getting popular there. Just want to feel the trends, you know!
    I’ll write about my list a.s.a.p. I am impatiently waiting to receive my books so I can take pics and write about them and most importantly enjoy them :)


    • These attempts by the Commission to reach out won’t be effective as long as they keep harassing people, invading their privacy and violating their rights. Instead of teaching people about their so-called great achievements, they should teach their members something called “tolerance.”

  6. so make sure to check this page before you drive there.

    Life would have a completely different meaning, wouldn’t it? :\

  7. It seems really nasty over there, I do not know but I am really worried about how I can tolerate with those creatures when I get back home. After being away for three years, I can not imagine or recall how some outsider (at least from my own private life) would come and interfere in such an irresponsible way.

  8. wish I was there :(
    seems like (hai’ah) are having so much fun in Riyadh. I almost never see them in Jeddah

  9. Ahmed,

    It sounds really pleasant. Perhaps I will even visit it — long drive for me.

    I would really love to hear your impressions of either specific books or writers.

  10. I don’t believe that the Ministry of Information & Culture made a “deal” with anyone. You can’t prevent police from entering publicly owned areas..

  11. Salman,

    Easy for you to say to ignore the negatives and still enjoy the event. You are a guy. Life for the male species is much easier than life for females in Saudi, I imagine. (Heck, I think life for Muslim males is much easier than Muslim females generally everywhere.)

    As a woman, I’m insulted. While enjoying the positive aspects of the book fair, it’s also important to keep in mind that there are those who cannot enjoy this as much as you without being harassed and feeling degraded.

  12. Saleema,

    It is true that in many aspects Men (guys) are getting away with ease. but trus me, we get a whole lot more Bull poop then any lady, (female). but what I wana know is what exactly you wana compare, life in Saudi (male v.s female) or life as a muslim (male v.s female). becuase those are two “different” subject, each holding its wight.

    in any case, I’m not taking sides here, but how or why are you insulted may I ask?

    if you are feeling degraded, why? who the heck has the right to tell you what to feel? if you mean the reliegious police, if ya didnt do no wrong, just tell em to freak off. I assure you, most of the guys there just need one lady in distress like you to make hell break loose on those gents. if you know what I mean.

    but what I mean is, not every lady goin there is getting harassed an stuff, you just have to decide you wana enjoy this once in an year event.

  13. I think the word is “National” not “International”. I agree that this year’s a bit better than, well, my last experience in a Riyadh book fair. But definatly, it is not as good as the book fair in Jeddah in terms of allowing everyone their room. I went there during morning time, and still, had over four occasions of religious entities comment -in passing- that I should cover my face. Relatively speaking, this is worse than Jeddah, yet better than Riyadh a few years back. A few years back, they wouldn’t just comment in the passing–they would keep up until a lady covered or got out.

  14. Salman,

    I think you think that I’m in Saudi? Oh no, I’m in Amrikka. I have never been to Saudi. I would like to though one day, inshallah.

    What I meant to say was that no matter in what corner of the world a Muslim is in, there are always more contraints on Muslim women than Muslim men. No?

    I am they type of person that likes to sit in front of the class. In taking a few classes form a sheikh, who happend to be a graduate of a Saudi university, the females were seated in the back. I was not happy about that.

    I have also been in situations where I only hear a voice and don’t get to see a face and that’s distracting to the learning process, at least for me.

    Anyway, didn’t last for very long in either scenario.

    • Actually what you have in Saudi Arabia is an interesting situation.

      As a single young man, I can’t enter Amusement Parks,Malls,regular parks or other such cultural events. I was thrown out of a mall when I was caught hogging an arcade machine and banned.

      So you’ve got a situation where men have the freedom of movement but can’t go anywhere while you have the opposite for women.


  15. Saleema,

    do I take it that your not saudi? 0_O

    that figures, well neither am I, though I lived here for 99.8% of my life. i should be a converted saudi already, but I’m not. go figure.

    but what I’m trying to say in general is that, Arabs and some of their traditions and not necessarily of islam.

    and another thing, why can’t it be that female scholars hold teaching or preaching sessions for females? why must you wait in the back rows? why not interact and ponder more on the lessons directly? that would be more convinient wouldnt it?

  16. since i’m too lazy to write more stuff regarding this BS aka exhibition, i’mma say one thing, International my ass

  17. Assalamu Alaikum all,

    How are you everyone? I just wanted to ask if there were any English or French books at the fair?


  18. Dear Ahmad,
    Greetings from Uk. What your friends and you are doing is a great and honorable thing that should be highly recognized and appreciated. Young people like you, make me proud of being Saudi.
    By the way, I have been trying to get ‘Hadeel’s book but couldn’t. Is there a way to send it to me to Uk? I will pay whatever it takes.
    All the best and keep it up

  19. المعرض خلص واعرف مجموعة افراد يرغبون بالحصول على كتب الراحلة هديل الحضيف كيف يمكن ذلك؟

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