why i have been going there for 11 years

A major characteristic that distinguishes book fairs from literary festivals is the sense of discovery.

The latter being a more static experience consisting largely of sessions featuring best-selling authors, a book fair brings together the X-factor of hundreds of international publishers, authors and booksellers on hand to promote their work.

This alchemy of creativity, collaboration, networking and commerce not only gives each international, regional or, in the case of the Abu Dhabi and Sharjah events in the United Arab Emirates, its own flavor, but also guarantees that each annual edition is not the same.

Scroll through the gallery above to see images from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2022

This is why visiting the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair – which I have been doing for 11 years – never gets old. There are always new authors to meet and the opportunity to reconnect with seasoned booksellers who come back with new stock.

The key to unlocking such a captivating experience is an open mind and closed feet. The blisters of years past have taught me that walking 11,000 steps in seemingly comfortable sandals is no match for regular sneakers. Put them on and get lost in the maze of booths and walkways of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center because you’ll never know what you might find or who you might meet.

A blast from the past

It is during these stays that I see the chaotic bookstore Dar Al Fadeela.

The messy mix of vintage Arabic newspapers, magazines, and novels strewn across the site is part of the charm. Specializing in literary material from the past 100 years, bookstore Dar Al Fadeela, which has branches in Dubai and Ajman, wants baby boomers and those who grew up in their 80s to spend hours in the stall on a hunt treasure to find a cherished magazine. or newspapers from their youth.

Realizing that I work for an English-language newspaper, Egyptian manager Mohamed Suleiman’s eyes light up.

Rummaging through a magazine shelf, he discovers a 1956 edition of National geographic magazine. At its heart is an article on the United Arab Emirates during the time of the truce, with a large section dedicated to what is now the historic district of Al Shindagha.

“What we normally do is buy from other bookstores and collections in bulk in hopes of finding something special,” says Suleiman. “When we found this we were excited. This has to be one of the first big magazine articles about the UAE.

This 1956 edition of Dar Al Fadeela Bookshop's National Geographic magazine includes an article about the Truce era in the United Arab Emirates.  Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Nearby, Christoph Auvermann of French antiquarian bookstore Librairie Clavreuil has perhaps one of the oldest books in the country.

“Well, it’s more of a musical manuscript than a book,” he says. “It was written by German monks in 1450. It’s made from the skin of a young calf and it’s full of sheet music for the monks to sing between their days of prayer.”

The exorbitant price of €350,000 ($376,000) is also food for thought, but Auverman is confident he can find a buyer in Abu Dhabi.

Christoph Auvermann of Librairie Clavreuil displays a book of 15th century hymns that he hopes to sell at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.  Khushnum Bhandari / The National

“It’s a pretty big niche, but it’s also something of great importance and value for those who are really interested in the arts,” he says. “It’s a great piece of art. You place this in the middle of the room on its stand and I guarantee it will be a conversation starter.

For the new generation

But it’s not just old books and collectibles at the fair. A new generation of storytellers of our time is also present.

I meet Kande Summers, 13, the British-born Jamaican author at the Black Books Collective stand. Since launching at the Sharjah International Book Fair 2020 with Summer’s futuristic debut novel Go homethe organization has grown to promote racially inclusive literature by international authors.

When it comes to her intergalactic story of a young teenager finding her way back to Earth, Summers has written a story that she and hopefully others can relate to.

Author Kande Summers, 13, displays her works at the Black Book Collective stand at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.  Khushnum Bhandari / The National

“It’s really important to me because growing up the things I saw and read about had people who weren’t like me,” she says. “So now that I’m able to influence others around me, I want to write a story that’s fun to read and also make people who look like me feel more comfortable with themselves.”

The Black Books Collective’s small collection of titles pales in comparison to Booktopia’s shelves full of novels. But look a little closer and this perceived breadth of options gradually dissipates.

Booktopia can be filled with books, but there are often many copies of the same title or multiple books by the same author. The shelf behind the section’s director, Balaji Vadivel, is filled with nearly 50 novels by 20th-century adventure writer Clive Cussler.

“Some people like it a lot,” says Vadivel, before admitting that most of the titles are excess stock from the store’s Dubai Festival City branch.

At Dh20 a pop, however, I’m picking myself up some novels by James Ellroy and Nick Hornby in preparation for future holidays.

My dreams of that beach getaway are temporarily shattered, however, when I wander into the international publishing house Horus.

I can’t take my eyes off the main book stand, which houses a series of Arabic children’s books filled with graphic photos of spiders, ranging from a tarantula to a killer redback.

A book of spiders from international publishing house Horus at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.  Said Said / The National

“Kids love it. It’s our bestseller and part of a series that also includes dinosaurs and monkeys,” says an attendant.

Once again, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair never fails to deliver.

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair runs until Sunday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. More information is available at adbookfair.com

Updated: May 27, 2022, 08:05

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