AMMAN, Jordan — Some 350 Arab and foreign publishing houses from 22 countries have joined the 2019 Amman International Book Fair, which took place this week with the theme "Jerusalem: The Capital of Palestine."
The fair, held from Sept. 26 to Oct. 5, falls against the backdrop of a US peace plan for Palestine and its neighbors — the “deal of the century” — and the announcements of various countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem.
The program includes political seminars, including a symposium titled “Facing the Zionist Narrative" on Sept. 29, and another titled “The Reality and Future of Jerusalem” on Sept. 30. The Oct. 4 seminar “The future of the region in light of the deal of the century” tackled the Donald Trump administration’s peace plan.
Fathi al-Biss, president of the Jordanian Publishers Association and director of the fair, told Al-Monitor, “Adopting the slogan of ‘Jerusalem: The Capital of Palestine’ is an affirmation of Jordan's rejection of all Israeli schemes that target the Arabization of Jerusalem and undermine the Hashemite guardianship over the holy sites.”
Biss said the exhibition also aims to increase the levels of reading in the kingdom by attracting more visitors who would discover in the fair the great variety of Arab books, saying that “350,000 people of different ages visited the previous exhibition, and we hope this edition will attract 450,000 visitors.”
“For publishers to take part in the exhibition, they have to be members of the Jordanian Publishers Association or the Arab Publishers Association,” Biss said, adding that fair officials assessed applicants based on the quality of the books they published and on whether they had experience in participating in similar exhibitions.
“There are no banned books in the exhibition,” he noted. “Books coming from outside Jordan come directly from the airport to the exhibition without going through any kind of censorship.”
The first day of the exhibition witnessed a high turnout.
In a speech delivered during the opening of the exhibition, Mohammed Abu Rumman, the Jordanian minister of youth and culture and chairman of the advisory committee of the exhibition, described the fair as “a cultural event that contributes to illuminating future generations” by providing them with an opportunity to learn about Arab, local and international cultures.
Abu Rumman told Al-Monitor, “Arab publishing houses have actively participated in the exhibition, and this year’s cultural program is broader and more comprehensive."
He also underlined the importance of choosing Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser as the cultural figure of the session. Nasser is also the winner of the 2019 State Appreciation Award.
Tunisia was the guest of honor at the exhibition, and Tunisian Cultural Days included a cultural program and book signing receptions with the participation of a number of writers and novelists. Several seminars were held on the feminist intellectual movement in Tunisia.
The Jordanian Publishers Association said Tunisia was chosen as the guest of honor because the North African country “is the founding school for democratic practice in the Arab world and a pioneer in supporting cultural activity. There are seminars dedicated to intellectuals and feminist activists to compare the cultural experience in Tunisia with that of Jordan.”
Tunisian Ambassador to Amman Khaled Shili told Al-Monitor that his country brought “a delegation of 22 people in different fields such as theater and literature.”
He added, “We have a special pavilion for the Tunisian Publishers Association, and another for the state of Tunisia, which includes literature for many Tunisian writers and publications on Tunisian history. Our participation comes within the framework of activating the cultural exchange agreement between Jordan and Tunisia, and this participation breeds further convergence between intellectuals in the two countries.”
On the sidelines of the exhibition, the International Publishers Association, in cooperation with the Jordan Publishers Association, organized Sept. 30 the Regional Conference of the International Publishers Association, during which it discussed the means available for publishers to advance a comprehensive cultural and social renaissance in the Arab world. With the participation of international publishing leaders and decision makers, it also tackled the challenges faced in trying to get new generations to read.