Facing fierce criticism and wide spread anger, Shawkat Al-Masry, the general director of the 50th Cairo International Book Fair, stated that the decision of moving the country’s biggest and most significant book fair came as the old location, the International Convention Centre (ICC), is no longer available for rent as it is undergoing renovations.
The announcement came during a phone call to the morning show entitled ‘Ra’y Aam’ (Public Opinion) which is aired on the privately-owned TV channel, Ten TV. The statement said that the ministry of culture has been renting the land from the ministry of investment over the past years, however, due to the renovation process currently taking place at the ICC, the book fair’s location throughout the past 30 years, it is not possible to hold this year’s edition in the same location.
The 50th Cairo International Book Fair is to take place from 23 January to 5 February.
The phone call came after the media agitation and the large public anger due to the relocation of the book fair at the Egypt International Exhibition Centre, located in the Fifth Settlement district, which is considered a very distant location for most people, with very few public transportations available.
Unlike the ICC, which is located in the middle of Cairo, with several transportation options and routes, the Egypt International Exhibition Centre is located at Al-Mosher Tantawy axis, a highway with few public transportation options.
Al-Masry stressed in the phone call that the ministry of culture does not own the ICCl and, therefore there is nothing they can possibly do.
He also added that the booths’ renting prices provided by the fair to the publishing houses increased this year by only10%, compared to the previous year, “which is not a huge percentage, compared to the increasing prices in all other services and sectors.”
The book fair also stressed that this year’s edition will provide visitors with free transportation, taking them to the Egypt International Exhibition Centre.
Trying to calm peoples’ anger, the fair’s official Facebook page posted on its platform several times, that transportation is one of the priorities to be discussed as it is one of the most crucial problems, especially as it is a megaevent which attracts millions of visitors every year.
“The General Egyptian Book Organisation is setting up a plan with the book fair’s concerned committee in order to provide transportation lines with fixed stops to carry visitors from all over the country, even from different governorates. This file is one of our top priorities,” according to the book fair’s Facebook post.
People accused the ministry of culture of undermining the economic conditions and suffering which people are currently going through, stating that moving it to an extremely far location with almost no accessibility except by cars, reduces the number of people capable of accessing it.
“The place is extremely hard to reach. It is literally in the middle of the desert. How can someone go there?” a Facebook user angrily commented on the post, after the announcement of the new location.
Calls for boycotting the book fair have been increasing on social media, aiming for people to turn their heads away from the book fair which attracted 4.5 million visitors last year, with 650,000 people going during the first two days only.
Last year’s edition witnessed the participation of 867 publishers, of which 367 are from the MENA region, and 9 of them are non-Arab publishers. One hundred and fourteen new publishing houses are participating for the first time in the fair, with 117 kiosks established at Sour El-Azbakeya’s tents, where books are sold at reduced prices.