SHARJAH, 5th April, 2022 (WAM) — In celebration of Sharjah’s prestigious Market Focus title at the 49th edition of the London Book Fair (LBF), the emirate hosted an elite group of diplomats, international authors, publishers, and representatives of UK’s cultural institutions at a Ramadan Iftar on Sunday evening to celebrate its achievement in becoming the first Arab city to receive this honour.
The dinner, organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), was hosted in London’s iconic Royal Opera House. Prominent guests included Sheikh Fahim bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations (DGR) in Sharjah, who is heading the Sharjah delegation at the book fair; Bodour Al Qasimi, President of International Publishers Association (IPA); Mohammad Al Murr, Chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation; Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Cultural Affairs; and Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA.
Abdullah Al Owais, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Information, Sharjah; Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Musallam, Chairman of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH); and British actor, playright, and broadcaster, Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, the artistic director of the Young Vic theatre in London, and several editor-in-chief of leading UAE newspapers were also in attendance.
Sheikh Fahim conveyed the greetings of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to the Iftar guests and expressed his true appreciation for their belief in Sharjah’s emphasis on supporting cross-cultural communication.
“The Ruler of Sharjah has placed education and knowledge at the core of our development process. We have learned that the most important challenges facing societies today can be overcome by learning more about cultural diversity and appreciating our differences,” he further noted, adding, “being raised in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, Sharjah; a place that 200 nationalities call home, a place with a global outlook on cultural dialogue where we are encouraged to be curious about the world and its differences.”
The DGR Chairman emphasised that though Sharjah and London have different histories and cultures, they share a common love for diversity. “Under the leadership of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, education is at the heart of our development process. We understand that today’s societal challenges can be solved by learning about each other and accepting the diversity in the world. And this is where London and Sharjah are similar – both multinational, multiethnic, multifaith societies. Sharjah and London are cities where differences are not just accepted, but welcomed.”
“This evening to me represents a celebration of our publishing community and our mutual support for one another, just like a family,” Bodour Al Qasimi, President of International Publishers Association (IPA) noted, welcoming guests to the Ramadan Iftar dinner Sharjah hosted to turn the publishing community’s attention to the emirate’s London Book Fair Market Focus programme.
The IPA President emphasised upon the importance of deep, active listening, adding that listening to publishers from the four corners of the world as she started her tenure right in the middle of a global health crisis reassured her that the publishing industry would fare very well through it.
“And, so, my main mission has been to rally everyone behind a unified vision on how we see our industry in the future, and how we get there,” she continued, noting that IPA’s recent InSPIRe Plan identified key future prioroties to realise this vision, and was followed by the launch of the IPA Academy earlier in March with the generous sponsorship of the Sharjah Book Authority and reflected IPA’s latest efforts to support the publishing community come out stronger and more unified in the post-Covid era.
For his part, Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, emphasised that words are a powerful tool through which the awareness of individuals, societies and nations is shaped. He noted how the lyrics of a song titled ‘Hope’ inspired him to achieve balance and stability during a challenging phase in his career. He also recalled a story he read that changed his view on life, noting, “Words do not just create sounds and lip movement. They are a massive force, especially the written word. Their impact transcends time and generations.”
Each guest table displayed the name of one of Sharjah’s cities, namely, Al Hera, Al Dhaid, Al Wusta, Al Sharqan, and Khorfakkan, as well as popular visitor attractions like the Heart of Sharjah, Al Qasba, Flag Island, Al Majaz, and others, with a short brief on their history, unique characteristics as well as their social, cultural and economic importance for the emirate. A documentary film highlighting Sharjah’s forward-looking cultural vision to promote books, culture and knowledge, was also screened during the Iftar gathering.