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Beirut's Arab Book Fair still very popular in 58th year

Lebanon is known as the printing house of the Arab world and a major publishing house for books printed in Arabic, due to its pioneering role in the book industry.

Beirut currently played host to one of them most important annual cultural events: The Beirut 58th Annual International Arab Book Fair, which took place at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center (BIEL) in downtown Beirut, and was held from the 28th of November until December 11. It is an annual gathering of Lebanese and Arab publishing houses and libraries, and book lovers of all genres, and is organized by the Arab Cultural Club and the Union of Publishes in Lebanon. Bringing together more than 200 Lebanese and Arab publishing houses and cultural activities for Arab intellectuals, it draws between 300,000 and 350,000 visitors every year.

Traditionally an opportunity to find out about local and regional productions, Beirut’s Arab Book Fair has taken place every year since 1956. The Book Fair was first held at the American University of Beirut’s West Hall. In the mid-1950s, it was the first event of its kind in the Arab world. The books cover all topics: politics, children books, novels, etc... The book fair also hosted dozens of parallel events, including seminars and lectures on a wide range of topics, fiction and poetry readings along with ceremonies to honor writers. "The fair is significant because it opens minds, not only through published books but also their titles, which convey what has and will happen," Hassan Mohammed al-Zein, editor-in-chief of Lebanese magazine Al-Shahed told Al-Shorfa. “Despite deteriorating political, security and economic conditions in Lebanon and the Arab world, the fair has not lost its literary value nor has participation suffered,” according to Fadi Tamim, head of the Arab Cultural Club.

Although Lebanon faced economic consequences resulting from the Lebanese war, which contributed to the decline of the amount of money the Lebanese population spends on books and culture in general, and although the technological revolution has risen tremendously, "This year's fair confirms that reading in Lebanon and the Arab world is alive and well,” says Raida Idriss, director of public relations in Dar Al Adab, which has won 10 books out of 100 in the Muse List, and won the Wajeeb Mahfoud award. Renowned authors this year include Edward Said, Elias Khouri, Hanan Al-Sheikh, Huda Barakat, Shawqi Bazee’a and Mohammad Shams El- Din. Held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the fair received visitors including many specialists, book enthusiasts and students of all ages and regions.

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