Look: Rare photos of Sheikh Zayed at first Abu Dhabi book fair
A nation is defined by its cultural wealth, not by material wealth: Sheikh Zayed
The growth of UAE’s annual book fairs and literary programmes as globally known events reflects full compliance with the wise counsel given by the Founding Father of the UAE four decades ago, at the very first edition of Abu Dhabi’s book fair.
During his visit to the kids’ corner at the Islamic Book Fair at Abu Dhabi’s Cultural Foundation on May 3, 1981, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President of the UAE, had called upon the nation to inculcate reading habit in children because "if they start to love books, it will last forever and help them expand their knowledge and culture."
He also reminded that "a nation is defined by its cultural wealth, not by material wealth."
The then president also ordered to organise the book fair annually, promising his full financial support, and it became the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) later.
Sheikh Zayed’s announcements and wise words were widely reported by Arabic newspapers the next day. The UAE’s National Archives has displayed those days’ newspapers in its pavilion at the current edition of ADIBF, which is going on at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).
The Founding Father had announced some other concrete steps to promote books in the Islamic Book Fair in 1981. Sheikh Zayed said that he would buy all remaining books at the end of the event and distribute them to ministries, cultural institutions and libraries, according to a report.
The ADIBF, which started in 1981; Sharjah International Book Fair, launched in 1982; and the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature since 2009, have found their place in global calendars of publishing and literary events. The international reputation of these events is a testimony that the UAE’s institutions and people have full heartedly followed Sheikh Zayed’s advice during the past four decades.
The pictures from Wam archives show Sheikh Zayed keenly looking at books at the first edition of the book fair, and interacting with exhibitors, officials and visitors.
The newspapers displayed at National Archives pavilion also shed light on another book fair held in 1974.
The first Arabic Book Fair was held in December, 1974, in Tourist Club Area of Abu Dhabi City and the then minister of Media and Tourism, Ahmed bin Hamed, opened the event, according to an Al Ittihad newspaper report on 14th December, 1974.
Around 10,000 books, published within the previous one decade, in various subjects such as art, culture, literature, science, law, history, geography, politics and economy, were available "on affordable prices," said the report.
The current edition of the ADIBF is being held at ADNEC until Saturday, May 29, 2021.
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the event is organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).
For the first time, this year’s fair is a hybrid edition, combining an onsite event with virtual programmes, while implementing best-in-practice Covid-19 safety standards and precautionary measures.
Around 889 publishing houses are offering 500,000 books and the fair’s hybrid programmes include 229 in-person and virtual sessions, with 248 speakers from around the world.
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