The 49th Cairo International Book Fair opened to the public on Saturday with a very busy calendar that includes debates, round tables, art galleries, workshops, and, for the first time, a cinema division, including screenings of films by directors like Youssef Chahine, Daoud Abdel-Sayed, and Ali Badrakhan.
The fair runs until 10 February at the Fair Grounds in Nasr City, and features offerings from 848 publishers from 27 countries. There are 178 more publishers than last year, but eight fewer countries represented in total.
This year's guest of honour is Algeria and the person of the year is Abdel-Rahman El-Charkawi (1921-1987).
El-Charkawi was one of Egypt's most renowned writers and poets in the 20th century, authoring many books that have been deemed gems of modern Islamic writing. He also authored a play about the Algerian nationalist Djamila Bouhired and her struggle against French colonialism.
This year’s theme is: "Soft Power: How?"
The fair was officially inaugurated on Friday by the first Egyptian female minister of culture, Ines Abdel-Dayem, and the Algerian minister of culture, Ezzedine Maihouby.
Also in attendance were the Egyptian minister of communication, Yasser El-Kady, the minister of religious affairs, Mokhtar Gomaa, the minister of military production, Mohammed El-Assar, and the minister of youth, Khaled Abdel-Aziz.
This year will see the participation of 481 Egyptian publishers, 367 Arab publishers, and ten from other regions, although only two African publishers are represented, down from six African publishers last year.
This is an increase in total number of publishers from the 670 represented at last year’s fair; 451 of those were Egyptian, 200 Arab, 13 from other regions, and six from African countries.
While the total number of publishers is up this year, it doesn't break the record, which is held by the 2016 fair, when 850 were featured.
The two African countries represented at this year’s fair are Sudan and Somalia, both of which are also Arab League countries.
Haj Aly, the head of the General Egyptian Book Organization, said the decrease of number of African countries "goes back to these countries" and is "probably for economic reasons."
Highlights on Monday 29 January:
Main Hall - Book discussion, "From Lenin to Putin: Russia in the Middle and the Far East", 11:00am
Main Hall – El-Charkawi's social view, 3:00pm
Latifa Zayat Hall - Nasser in Russian literature, 1:00pm
Latifa Zayat Hall – Translation between Arabic and Russian, 3:00pm
Latifa Zayat Hall – Launch of the Arabic edition of the second issue of the Chinese literary magazine "Minarets of the Silk Road", 7:00pm
Books and Writers Hall – Book launch: "Roots of Communist Thought", 2:00pm
Mohammed Abul-Majd Hall – Round table on audio books, 11:00am