Iraq concludes first book fair in 20 years
Saturday 07 May 2011
Iraq's first book fair in 20 years concluded on Thursday with organisers and attendees hailing it as a return for the violence-wracked country to the global literary scene.
The two-week exhibition featured more than 200 publishing houses from 32 countries displaying about 37,000 books at a massive conference hall in Mansur, west Baghdad, according to the event's organisers.
The books on offer were mostly in Arabic, but English and French literature was also on sale.
"Baghdad has regained its place on the world's cultural map," said Safira Naji, a member of the organising committee for the Baghdad International Book Fair, the first such exhibition organised by the Iraqi government.
All previous book fairs were either privately organised or locally focused, said Abdulwahab al-Radhi, president of the Iraqi Publishers' Association.
He said the last book fair of any kind in Iraq was in 1990, before then dictator Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, which was followed by the country being subjected to punishing sanctions, some of which remain in place today.
And high levels of violence in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam precluded holding such an exhibition.
On Thursday, the last day of the book fair, hundreds of Iraqis, including a many women, browsed the literature on offer.
Among them was Nur Abdullah, a 28-year-old bank employee who took a day off work to attend the exhibition.
"I do not have the time to read them all at once, but I will hold on to them for later," she said, noting her preference for books on psychology.
Ali Shauna, a 53-year-old civil servant, lamented that after the 2003 invasion, "Iraq fell into an intellectual coma, but the country is slowly waking up."
"We can say that the Iraqis have started reading again," he added.
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