Inside the 31st Annual Doha International Book Fair
The 31st annual Doha International Book Fair took place on Jan.13-22 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center (DECC). The oldest and largest international book fair of the region made a comeback after a yearlong break due to the pandemic. “The smell of books, excitement of meeting authors and publishers from all over the world is what makes this book fair special,” said Matthias Krug, a Qatar based children’s writer and journalist.
According to Krug, the most exciting part of the exhibition, apart from book signing and networking with other authors, was presenting his newly published series, “Swish the Shark,” to young readers.
Accessibility and the importance of knowledge in raising young generations was discussed at daily seminars and workshops. This year’s fair featured a section devoted to children because “we realize the importance of having knowledge accessible to everyone,” said Jawaher Al-Bader, the head of the fair’s Cultural Committee. The initial entry age requirement of 12 years and above was waived three days into the exhibition, and a puppet show for children was also set up in a designated area. tAnnounced last year, on Nov. 18 by Jassim Al Buainain, director of the book fair, the theme of this year’s fair was “knowledge is light,” in a nod to Islamic traditions. In the announcement, AlBuainain emphasized the importance of books and readership in the process of obtaining and conveying knowledge as well as connecting people around the world. The Ministry of Culture invited guests of honor, authors, experts and 335 publishing houses from 37 countries to share their books, art and wisdom with Arabic speaking visitors from around the region.
“It was very interesting to wander from one book corner to another. It felt like I visited many countries in just one evening,” said Danagul Azimzhanova, who attended the fair on its opening day.
“My favorite [stalls] were France, Kyrgyzstan and the galaxy stand with a flying astronaut inside the U.S. corner,” said Anastasia Cheypesh, another visitor.
According to Maha Mubarak Al-Mohannadi, the head of the fair’s Sponsorship and Communications Committee, the event provides an opportunity for other local entities, in addition to authors and Qatar-based publishing houses, to demonstrate how they view the concept of knowledge. Special booths were provided for digital creators, artists and young entrepreneurs to present their work and organize public symposiums. Salma Almass, who specializes in drawing anime-style portraits and also digitally customizes clothes and accessories, was one of the featured digital artists.
“This was my first time participating in such a big event and it was a great opportunity to find new connections and meet with potential customers,” Almass said “I got contacts from many businesses and publishing agencies that were interested in my digital artwork,” she added.
Due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and the rising number of cases , the organizing committee of Qatar Cultural and Heritage Events Center limited visitor capacity, and imposed other COVID-19 precautionary protocols, including social distancing, mandatory masking and limiting entry to fully vaccinated residents only.
“It felt very well organized and safe, one of the best exhibitions I have visited so far,” said visitor Aidana Kamilovna..”