I love books! So a trip to the third largest book festival in the world seemed just the thing. Sharjah, one Emirate south of Dubai, is only twenty minutes away, and many who work in Dubai LIVE in Sharjah because living there is a heck of a lot cheaper. (The downside is that so many people are moving to Sharjah that traffic to and from Dubai can be harrowing…)
But if you head there midday, traffic is not so bad, and the Sharjah International Book Fair is great fun, as FULL of books as one would expect. But frankly, it can also be quite OVERWHELMING. I am sure that there must be talks by authors, but I never found any – just acre upon acre of books, people, and general joyful bedlam, all of which was fine by me. I did meet one fascinating and engaging author who has written a series of books similar to the English “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books. Mohammed Khamis told me his books (in Arabic) are designed to encourage young Emiratis to read in Arabic instead of always in English. They are stories of not a wimpy kid, but a mushagib (mischievous troublemaker). Sounds just my speed, if only I could read Arabic… but there were also plenty of books in English, and I brought several home (since that is what happens when you go to a book festival!)
The book festival lasts almost two weeks and comes every year in November. Parking and entry is free. I recommend that you consider going during the evening or on Thursday, since Sunday through Wednesday is when the schoolkids come. Of course, there IS a certain appeal to watching school children enthralled by books, so perhaps if that appeals, you will not mind the crowds and a few young mushagibs!
(Please note that I may well be misspelling and/or misapplying the word “mushagib”! It would not be the first time or the last that I have garbled an Arabic word. Arabic – English is not always an easy or simple translation).