By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 21 November:
Libya is to be the ‘guest of honour’ at the 2013 Cairo International Book Fair, the largest and oldest book fair in the Arab world, now celebrating its 43rd year.
Dr Ahmed Megahed, director of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO), which organises the annual event, said Libyan cultural officials and publishers had this week accepted the star role at the fair.
It is understood that India had initially been approached but had to turn down the accolade because the Cairo book fair clashed with a similar event in New Delhi. Tunisia was the 2012 guest of honour.
Libyan publishers will occupy the principal 200 square metre exhibition space.
Megahed said the book fair: “Enabled publishers, printers, members of the book trade and book-lovers from all over the world to meet, talk and do business.”
In recent years, some Cairo book fairs have been marred by Islamic protests over the selling of publications deemed to be offensive. There has also been a number of incidents where books being sold by foreign publishers have been seized by the Egyptian authorities.
At the 2010 fair, in one such raid, the publisher of a book criticising the Qaddafi regime was arrested. All copies of ‘The Leader is Cutting his Hair’ by the late Idris Ali were confiscated. Ali, a Nubian Egyptian had lived in Libya between 1976 and 1980.
The 2011 fair was cancelled because of the Egyptian revolution. At this year’s fair, most of the new books, performances and talks celebrated the Arab Spring.
The 44th International Book Fair will run from 23 January to 5 February at the Cairo International Conference Centre, Nasr City, Cairo.