By Rohma Sadaqat
A little over a week ago, I wrote about overindulging one’s self at a book fair and then coming home to the absolutely mammoth task of making space for new books on an overflowing bookshelf.
You would think that I would have taken the instance as a learning opportunity, or as a lesson in self-control, but wouldn’t you know it, the Big Bad Wolf book sale was soon to be followed by yet another book fair that I absolutely refuse to miss – this one much closer to home though. Ask any Sharjah resident and they will tell you that one of the events that they most look forward to in the emirate is the Sharjah International Book Fair.
Living in Sharjah for more than 25 years, means that I have had the joy and privilege to see the event grow and evolve from being a simple (yet always highly anticipated) book fair to an international event that draws remarkable speakers and authors from around the world. What was once a simple affair where you could go to buy lots and lots of books, is now a whirlwind of activity where bookworms have the chance to meet some of their favourite authors at book signings, witness intellectuals discuss and debate on a wide range of topics, see live cooking shows, listen to exquisite poetry, and even be part of a thrilling painting workshop. I like to think that this is one event that has put Sharjah on the global map; you certainly feel richer after having visited it.
What I love most about the Sharjah International Book Fair, though, is the countless fond memories that I have accumulated of the event over the years. My mother used to take both my brother and I there, usually on Thursdays after school. My father, who worked at Expo Centre Sharjah as an art director, would always join us on the exhibition floor after he finished work. Together, we would roam around and see what the event had to offer, before leaving with bags of new books. I asked my mother if she could remember the first time that we visited the exhibition and she said that it was shortly after we had both started school. “We got several books for you from the children’s section; most of them were Ladybird Classics,” she said.
Thinking back now, I can almost see the thin and pale yellow picture books with their red and black dotted spines. I remember how much I loved them, and how I would always sneak a few more into the shopping cart, or hide them behind my back, when both my parents were distracted; they would always huff affectionately when they saw them, but they never made me put them back. When it came to buying books, ‘no’ was a word that ceased to exist in both our parents’ verbal dictionaries, and they encouraged us to grab what we wanted. I also remember how they used the book fair as a way to teach us about financial literacy. When they first started giving us pocket money, they explained that saving up meant that we could now do our own book shopping at the fair. This resulted in both my brother and I saving for months so that we had enough to buy whatever books our heart desired. Visiting the book fair today, I am happy to say that none of the excitement that we had as kids has dimmed in the slightest, and chances are that we will still go home with our pockets lighter and our book bags heavier.
Rohma is a simple creature; she sees a book she likes, she buys the book she likes