Cairo International Book fair (Photo: Mohammed Saad)
The 49th Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) will open 26 January and run until 10 February at the Fair Grounds in Nasr City, with 848 publishers from 27 countries — 178 more publishers than last year, yet eight fewer countries.
This year's guest of honour is Algeria and CIBF's Person of the Year is Abdel-Rahman El-Charkawi (1921-1987), according to an announcement made by the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO), official organiser of the fair.
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 colonisation.
Haitham Al-Haj Ali, head of GEBO, said the fair chose El-Charkawi as a great example of "soft power."
Last year, CIBF chose Egyptian poet Salah Abdel-Sabour (1931-1981), one of Egypt's most influential contemporary poets, as Person of the Year, while in 2016 it chose late Egyptian novelist Gamal El-Ghitany (1945-2015), to commemorate his memory.
CIBF's theme for the year is "Soft Power: How?"
Haj Ali said that culture is soft power; that Egyptians need to communicate with the world, and that culture is the way for Egypt to retain its position of leadership in the world.
"Soft power is the cultural façade of the country; it is the set of values and traditions and cultural particularities that makes the future of Egypt and its history, and we are ready to put the question of soft power on the table in this year's fair," Haj Aly said.
This year will see the participation of 848 publishers from 27 countries: 481 Egyptian, 367 Arab, 10 international, though only two African publishers, down from six African publishers last year.
Last year saw the participation of 670 publishers, 451 of them were Egyptian, 200 Arab, 13 international, and six from African countries.
Arab publishers have increased by 167 publishing houses this year.
While the total number of publishers is up this year, it doesn't break the record number of 2016, which was 850.
The two African countries are Sudan and Somaila, which are also Arab countries. Haj Aly said the decrease of number of African countries "goes back to these countries" and is "probably for economic reasons."
The fair will have a busy cultural and artistic programme that is yet to be announced.