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During the 59th Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF), where Sharjah was honored as a Guest of Honor, the emirate opened a window into the diverse and historically rich traditions of culture, art, and music of the Emirati and Arab worlds.

From turning the spotlight on opportunities in the Arab book industry and exploring the delightful worlds of Arabic calligraphy and children’s book illustrations to promoting Emirati heritage and popular art, music, garments, craft traditions and more, Sharjah’s vibrant range of activities introduced the unique strengths of cultural institutions and entities across the emirate to global audiences at the book fair.

Sharjah’s pavilion witnessed a large footfall of European visitors of all age groups throughout the four days of the fair. Visitors enjoyed performances led by the Sharjah National Band; many showed interest in learning Emirati traditional dancing, others queued up to have their names written in stylised Arabic calligraphy while women and girls of various nationalities adorned their hands with henna and photographed themselves in traditional Emirati clothing.

Sharjah has led discussions on the challenges and opportunities of publishing in the current markets and explored prospects for the future. Panel discussions and literary seminars featuring authors, publishers, artists and translators from Italy and the UAE shed new light and unique perspectives on children’s book illustrations, translation, and the global book industry. The emirate explored potential solutions to enhance the knowledge industry and boost outcomes for book production both regionally and internationally, and in doing so, has offered a great opportunity to build partnerships and reinforce cooperation between Italian and Emirati cultural entities.

At the main gate of the BolognaFiere Exhibition Centre where BCBF was held, Sharjah organised a group art exhibition titled, ‘Insight, Reflect’, featuring 20 Emirati children’s book illustrators. The exhibition captured the interests of publishers, illustrators, and readers and introduced book makers from around the world to the thriving art scene in the UAE and its impact on Arabic children’s literature.

To facilitate exchange of knowledge and creative expertise, the Sharjah pavilion was transformed into a platform for creative art workshops that focused on children’s book illustrations and doll-making, and hosted dozens of promising and expert Emirati artists who showcased their creativity in art and handmade crafts.

Sharjah’s Guest of Honour pavilion at BCBF saw the participation of: Sharjah Book Authority, which oversaw the programming agenda of the Guest of Honour activities, Emirates Writers Union, Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, Sharjah Publishing City, Sharjah Department of Culture, Sharjah Heritage Institute, Emirates Publishers Association, the UAE Board on Books for Young People, Kalimat Group, Kalimat Foundation, Knowledge Without Borders, and 1001 Titles initiative.