The Cairo Book Fair
It is narrated that many people of earlier generations used to pray, “Allahumma ballighnaa Ramadan” (O Allah, allow us to witness the upcoming Ramadan) and I think many of the students here in Cairo pray in a similar way for the blessing of witnessing the annual book fair. ;) The Cairo International Book Fair is one of the largest fairs in the world. It’s a huge gathering of book sellers from all over the globe which often has more than two million visitors each year. This year was especially anticipated since last year’s fair was cancelled due to the protests leading up to the revolution.
Here are a few tips for those who may be attending next year (And please feel free to add your own suggestions for those who have experienced it):
- Start preparing a list of books you are interested in beforehand, since the book fair is HUGE and can be overwhelming if you are planning on simply browsing. You may also want to go with someone who has previous experience at the fair to help you navigate between the various tents and booths.
- Get recommendations from teachers and other students about books, not only with the title and author’s name but the publisher they would suggest. Unlike English books there is a huge variation in the quality of Arabic books depending on the publisher, with some notorious for printing works with glaring errors, missing words, indecipherable fonts, etc, and others known for better quality and editing. When it comes to classical works there may be different editions and multiple commentaries, so make sure to consult with others and find out the specific edition that would be most beneficial to you.
- Bring something sturdy and large enough to carry all your books in. It’s not unusual to see students using large book bags and suitcases to carry their purchases at the fair.
- Try to go early since they do sell out of popular books. You may want to visit multiple times (as most students do), first focusing on getting what’s on your list and then browsing for new, interesting or discounted books.
- Even if your Arabic is not at a level to appreciate the incredible selection of books available, you can find a lot of interesting things to see and enjoy. English books are also on sale, and kids books and toys can be found at places like Safeer, EduFun and other booths. You can also find artwork and other things on display in some of the larger tents. In a way the book fair is a celebration of books and learning, so it’s fun to be part of the experience even if you are not quite ready for those 15-volume works just yet :)