Amman International Bookfair concludes

Banner at the door of the Amman International Bookfair. (Photos: Jude Taha/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Amman International Bookfair wrapped up its 20th session on Saturday, with more than 360 publishing companies, both local and international, bidding farewell to this year’s cultural and intellectual hub.اضافة اعلان

The Union of Jordanian Publishers hosted this year’s fair in cooperation with the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) and the Ministry of Culture. It was considered part of the Kingdom’s centenary celebrations. The theme for this year’s fair was “Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine.”

Despite restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s fair hosted publishers from 20 countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, the US, UK, China, and India, and held various in-person educational events.
The fair ran from September 22 until October 2. It followed extensive safety protocols to allow visitors to safely enjoy in-person activities, including book signings, workshops, symposiums, and youth activities. 

Appeal and atmosphere

Throughout the bookfair, people rushed into the 9,000sqm halls of the Amman International Exhibition for Cars, either lugging empty suitcases in hopes of collecting enough books from across the globe or rushing to find seats at an event, discussing ranges of topics from professional, educational, to entertainment.

Section dedicated to the works of Mahmoud Darwish at the Amman International Bookfair. 

The bookfair hosted award-winning Arab authors and poets to appeal to customers and created an atmosphere to allow publishers to share their tips for success, merging the two to boost economic growth within the sector after a year of hardship. 

Children’s literature and activities

Following last year’s cancellation of bookfair due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both publishers and customers were excited to return. This year, children were also extended an invitation. 

Dar Al-Asmaa, a Syrian-based book publisher, returned to the bookfair after a three-year hiatus. Ghiyath Younes, a representative of the booth, discussed with Jordan News the differences he saw this year compared to previous years. “The reception of people this year is good, especially when it comes to children’s books,” he said.

Dar Al-Asmaa sold out their children’s interactive book — a handmade fabric-based multi-media book with activities that introduce children aged 3 and up to shapes, colors, numbers, and alphabets —  within the first few days.

Children’s activity made of old egg cartons. (Photos: Jude Taha/Jordan News)

Children were a priority in this year’s planning. Publishers and organizers dedicated space for them to ensure they feel welcomed. You would find colors, TVs, and unpackaged books in every corner to encourage children to interact with the material firsthand. 

The bookfair also held activities that were aimed explicitly at children throughout its duration. Starting from 5pm onward, every day of the fair, families, schools, or youth clubs were able to make their way into a tent right outside the fair, and participate in events like art competitions, educational lectures for kids, and talent shows, making the fair a destination for kids and not just adults.

Ghassan Hussein, vice president and director of the Media and Public Relations Committee at the Union of Jordanian Publishers, shared in an interview with Jordan News: “There was a significant presence this year. Especially from families, kids, schools, and cultural institutions. Even some universities.”

He added that during the selection phase of choosing what publishers would participate in the bookfair, the committee responsible ensures that there are a variety of books available, from historical, political, to religious, and included classics, novels, poetry, and children’s books so that everyone can find something to enjoy reading. 

Children’s books . (Photos: Jude Taha/Jordan News)

Beyond activities, Regal Education also held a booth at this year’s bookfair. Regal Education is an American learning company that provides customized educational content, software, and services for pre-K through grade 12.
Miran Alqdah, a curriculum specialist at Regal Education, told Jordan News: “My main customers here (the bookfair) are distributors and schools, not the parents. While a lot of parents were interested in the material and how much it costs, that is not what we do.”

She added that her main goal is to introduce educational publications for Mathematics, Science, and English and the introduction of the curriculum in hopes of building a foundation for Regal Education in Jordan. “We are looking for an agent in Jordan … our plan for next year is to help provide a better quality of education.”

Participation and the publishing sector

After a difficult year the publishing sector, the bookfair aimed to revitalize and encourage different publishers to re-enter the market.
Beyond the invitation of children, Dana Alsharieea, a representative from the Jordanian Dar Al-Bidayah Publishers and Distributors, shared that there was an increase in types of books and the number of people buying, but the most significant change she saw this year was the participation of women. 

“Women are very involved this year, as customers, sales representatives, marketing, and even as administration. This is something we didn’t see in previous years,” she said.

“I believe this is one of the most successful years for the bookfair, publishing houses are trying to give the best offers, and people are interested in buying, which is really encouraging,” added Alsharieea. 

Wall of important rare Jordanian books at the booth hosted by the Greater Amman Municipality and the Department of the National Library.(Photos: Jude Taha/Jordan News)

Hussein discussed with Jordan News the aims that were met during this year’s fair, stating: “The goal of the fair is cultural, and to promote Jordanian and Arab publishing houses, small presses, and materials produced by them. As well as enrich Jordanian libraries, especially after the halt of bookfairs in 2020, and thankfully it was incredibly successful.’

According to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, on Saturday, Jamal Al-Rifai, spokesperson for the services and consulting sector in the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, said that the Amman International Bookfair revitalized the publishing sector nationally. 

Director of the Amman International Bookfair, Jaber Abu Fares, and members of the administrative board of the Union of Jordanian Publishers, shared that levels of participation at this year’s bookfair exceeded expectations.
It is worth noting that this year’s bookfair offered a wide range of selections, including popular contemporary fiction books, which attracted youth to the fair. 

Celebrations of Jordan’s centenary

This year’s bookfair coincided with the Kingdom’s centenary, and the bookfair ensured the inclusion of activities that celebrated and educated people on the significance of the event. 

The GAM, in collaboration with the Department of the National Library, launched a booth that celebrated significant Jordanian literature. They also presented a wall with influential, rare Jordanian printed books. 

Free books distributed at the booth hosted by the Greater Amman Municipality and the Department of the National Library.(Photos: Jude Taha/Jordan News)

The booth offered all visitors a free book from a collection of literature to help encourage writing across the Kingdom and in celebration of the centenary. Visitors were also able to leave handwritten messages to the department discussing their favorite books or simply leaving encouraging notes about the meaning of the centenary to them. 

In mention of the Kingdom’s centenary, Hussein said: “This year’s bookfair included cultural, educational, and entertaining seminars and events that celebrated Jordan’s centenary. These events included poetry nights and various lectures.”

Beyond the educational and cultural aspect of the bookfair, there were also art booths selling prints and paintings from multiple countries. 

The bookfair accumulated various experiences that people were able to enjoy; from buying books, learning about different countries, listening to love poetry, to enjoying a traditional Palestinian stone-oven cooked plate of Knafeh.

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