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Reflections on 2024 Cairo International Book Fair

By Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami As an author, I was invited to the 55th Cairo International Book Fair from January 25 to February 6, 2024.…

By Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami

As an author, I was invited to the 55th Cairo International Book Fair from January 25 to February 6, 2024. The event was conducted at the Egypt International Exhibition Centre situated in the burgeoning New Cairo. The attendance recorded within the 12 days was unprecedented and has been classified as unique and highly successful.

The 2024 expo was attended by about 3.5 million people; authors and visitors were from over 70 countries across all continents. Books on display cover science, social science, religion, civilisation, disruptive technologies, and history, among others. They were written in various languages such as Arabic, English, German, Spanish, and Chinese.

The pioneer Cairo Book Fair was in 1969, which translates to 55 years old. The Riyadh Review of Books noted that the exhibition held the position of the world’s second-largest book fair as of 2023. It was eclipsed only by the Frankfurt Book Fair, which takes place annually in mid-October in Germany. Inaugurated in 1949, it will be 75 this year.

Based on the turnout, the 2024 Cairo Book Fair arguably surpassed the Frankfurt Book Fair. Each year, the authorities in Egypt craft a motto for the event. “We create knowledge, we preserve the world” was the slogan for the 55th convention. Undoubtedly, the world is being preserved through knowledge and its applications, which means skills – comprising soft, social, and hard skills.

Around 2.2 million books are published every year, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In addition, Google made an attempt to estimate the number of books globally, starting from the official invention of Printing Press in 1440, now 548 years old.

The technology company discovered that as of 2010, more than 129,864,880 books had been published. Therefore, if we reconcile the findings of UNESCO and Google’s count, we can safely say that we would have approximately 160,664,880 books available in the world by the end of 2024.

Writing and reading books contribute to the success of individuals and communities. Divine messages of the Glorious Qur’an, Injeel (The Holy Bible) and the Attaurah (The Old Testament) are in the form of books and have been playing a critical role in making the world a better place, spiritually, economically, administratively and morally. The first word sent to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the Qur’an was “iqraa” (“read”).

Late Charlie Munger, a successful business partner to Warren Buffett, said, “I think a life properly lived is just learn, learn, and learn all the time”; part of his formula for success is “never stop learning”. Buffett, a wealthy investor of modern time, dedicates two-thirds of his time to reading, reflection, experimentation, and sometimes writing.

Buffett revealed that the secret to his success is simple: “I just sit in my office and read all day.” He also advised: “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest…”. Similarly, Barack Obama, while serving as United States President, read for one hour every day. He still reads and writes.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has officially adopted the month of March as the “month of reading” to nurture a culture of knowledge and learning. This is a good policy that should be adopted by other developing countries. We also need to reward and encourage young authors and researchers by introducing many incentives for them.

Reading on a regular basis would significantly reduce the unproductive time teenagers and adults spend on multiple social media platforms. I urge the government, private sector, organisations, and individuals to take a deep dive into the advantages of reading and its benefits to personal, community, and nation building.

In conclusion, while living, all and sundry are encouraged to either do something amazing worth writing or at the least write something worth reading. If you can do both outstandingly, you can be celebrated as a legend or a great mentor to be emulated.

Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is a professor of cybersecurity and Islamic scholar

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