At new location, Amman Int’l Bookfair marks another year in the books

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(Photos: Jude Taha/Jordan News)
A midst a lively crowd of shoppers, Amman International Bookfair welcomed visitors, young and old, at a brand-new location this year: Mecca Mall. اضافة اعلان

The annual bookfair, which is hosted by the Union of Jordanian Publishers in cooperation with the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) and the Ministry of Culture, carried the theme “Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine”.

This year, the bookfair had a children’s section on the top level and a more general section on the lower level, and a few conference halls to accommodate 400 local, Arab, and international publishing houses and presenters, a change that was met with mixed opinions.

Location change
“They should not have made it on two floors. I believe one floor would have given all participants an advantage,” Nijmeldeen Al-Bukhari told Jordan News. Bukhari ran the booth for publishing house Kunooz Al-Maarefeh.

“I found that this year, people are rarely here to find or look for books. The fair is more visited because of the fact that it is a fair,” he added. “There was weak turnout this year as well. The advertisement for the fair was weak, too.”

Saeed Shaaban, manager of the Egyptian Tashkeel El-Nasher for Distribution publishing house was more jubilant about the experience.

“It is not always that a bookfair is held in a mall — an advantage this year. The location enabled us to meet different types of customers, not just readers. It allowed us to integrate with the visitors of the mall and other audiences, which made our participation very successful,” Shaaban told Jordan News.

At Lebanese Universal Publisher and Distributor booth for English architecture, interior, design, and children’s books, Fadi Moukanzah — who was participating for the second time — told Jordan News: “It is better than last year, the change was a good decision. But what was missing this year were students; we did not see many school or university students, maybe because there is a budget issue.

“I think the Ministry of Culture or the Ministry of Education could have supported Arab publishers a bit more. Maybe offering (students) $300–$400 to spend at the booths would have been (a) good (initiative). But, it was a successful fair.”

Dar Al-Manhal Publishers’ CEO Khaled Bilbeisi told Jordan News: “It was a new experience, which we hope develops.… While the place is new, we have noticed over the last few days that there is a distinctive level of turnout.”

“This location is better. It is our first time here, and as with any new location, it comes with its own set of difficulties,” said Ghassan Hussein, vice president and director of the Media and Public Relations Committee at the Union of Jordanian Publishers, and a lead organizer of the bookfair.

Finding a location, he said, was a bigger issue than hosting the fair at the mall.

“Jordan is the only country that does not have a conference center or fairground. We have voiced this to the Ministry of Culture, the Prime Ministry, and the Lower House.

“This year — just about a week ago — GAM told us that a study is being conducted to assess the possibility of creating a convention center or fairground, which is very important,” he added.

Focus on children
This year, the fair dedicated an entire hall for children-oriented activities, including games, readings, and educational activities.

Among the booths decorated with colors, flags, and cartoon characters was Al Salwa Publishers’ stand, whose founder, Taghreed Najjar, is a renowned author who has been writing children’s books for over 40 years.

Najjar’s works range from books for 2–3 year olds to early teens; she founded Al Salwa publishing house in 1996 to “fill any gaps found in children’s publishing with high-quality publications”, she told Jordan News.

Author Taghreed Najjar, stands at Al Salwa Publishers’ booth.

Najjar’s works are often used as supplementary reading in schools. She is expected to release a new story next month, alongside three other stories for the children’s series titled “Jad and Tala”.

Themes in Najjar’s books vary; they are are not limited by a set standard.

“I write about things that happen around me — sometimes when I am with my grandchildren, with my children when they were young, these are my inspiration.”

In comparison to last year’s “river of people”, which Najjar credited to people being excited to come back post-COVID, this year’s new location had less traffic, especially due to the separation of levels and timing, she said.

“The timing was not right. They held it at the beginning of the school year, when parents were tired of buying school-related stuff,” she said.

Still, Najjar praised the bookfair for giving her the opportunity to meet people.

“People feel close to me when they read my books, so it is really nice to get the opportunity for them to come and say hello. I really enjoy that,” she said.

On Friday, Nabatean poetry could be heard echoing through the fair, performed by Hilal Suleiman Al-Shurafat, Tayseer Al-Zulalabiyeh, Thabet Al-Sakhri, and Majd Al-Khumasiyeh.

The fair offered a wide range of meet and greets, symposiums, and books signings by various authors over the course of 10 days. 

Mira Jarrar’s stand at Amman Intenrational Bookfair. 

Amongst the authors meeting visitors was Mira Jarrar, educational cooking classes host for children, teens, and families, and author of “Cook’s Solutions”, a cookbook designed and curated to appeal to youths and encourage them to take initiative in preparing their own meals.

“I want to encourage them (the youth) to eat healthier food that tastes good, not bland,” she told Jordan News.

“I wanted to teach children actual cooking, away from cupcake and sprinkles. Studies show that children eat what they grow up on and what they cook, and those who learn to cook while young are more capable of cooking five healthy meals when they grow older,” she said.

Jarrar, who is an independent publisher, was participating in the bookfair as part of the Dar Al-Manhal Publishers’ booth, as independent publishers are not allowed to register for the fair.

Organizational efforts
The bookfair, which was inaugurated by the Minister of Culture Haifa Al-Najjar on September 1, hosted publishers from 22 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Britain, Italy, China, and Jordan.

Hussein, from the Union of Jordanian Publishers said: “This level of participation did not come from a vacuum. This shows the participants’ keenness to develop Amman’s bookfair, and the union’s dedication, alongside that of the Ministry of Culture and GAM.”

“The Union of Jordanian Publishers hosts this distinctive cultural event in Jordan annually. The union, its administration and its subsidiary committees, work for free and with personal initiative to hold the event,” said Hussein.

“The bookfair is not a for-profit event. It is a cultural and national event, organized by volunteers and officials elected by the general assembly of the publisher’s union to organize it annually.”

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