On Thursday, the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO) declared the final number of publishers participating in the Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF): 745 from 29 countries, including 498 Egyptian, 215 Arab, and 32 non-Arab publishers.
On the other hand, the Tunisian ambassador to Egypt Mahmoud Al-Khoumairi announced the Tunisian guest-of-honour cultural programme, which will bring to CIBF poets, writers and singers — many from the south, where the revolution first broke out in Sidi Bouzid.“Tunisia is eager to provide a rich cultural programme during the fair,” Al-Khoumairi said, “to reflect the new government’s policy of promoting the arts. We see the Egyptian guest-of-honour invitation as an expression of the great value of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.”
The two revolutions being, of course, the main theme of the programme: literary events will also commemorate the well-known Tunisian writer Mahmoud Al-Mass’adi. According to Nouri Oubaidi, the head of the Tunisian Publishers’ Union, “Our hope is that the fair will be a step forward in promoting freedom of expression, the greatest gift of the Arab Spring.” Oubaidi said the union was keen on participating despite the confusion resulting from from frequent changes in the date of the event. “You will meet new faces from Tunisia this year, faces that had been repressed by the Ben Ali regime, who will come to the fair and express their views with freedom.”
Mohammed Rashad, the head of the Egyptian Publishers Union, believes that the Tunisian Publishers Union taking over the management of Tunisian publishers’ affairs is one of the greatest gains of the Tunisian revolution — unlike its Egyptian counterpart, where GEBO still controls the management of book fairs including CIBF. “The union’s relationship with GEBO has changed dramatically after the revolution,” however, Rashad says. “Now we discuss things and listen to each other unlike before, when GEBO would impose its opinion no matter what, but we still hope the union will take over managing the book fair.”