Sharjah-UAE, which is rightly called the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates,  will be the guest of honour at this year’s Thessaloniki Book Fair which turns 20 and will take place on May 16 to 19, 2024.  The official announcement and the signing of the respective agreement took place during the 42nd Sharjah International Book Fair at the Greek Pavilion on Saturday 4 November, 2023.

The cooperation agreement was signed by the President of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, Nikos Koukis, and Khoula Al Mujaini, Sharjah Book Authority’s Director of Events and Marketing, in the presence of  official representatives, including Ahmed Al Ameri, Sharjah Book Authority CEO, Karima El Azizi, Head of International Affairs Office, Dimitris Thomopoulos and Chrysanthi Leventi, Head and First Secretary respectively of the Economic and Commercial Office at the Greek Embassy in Dubai and Nopi Chatzigeorgiou, Thessaloniki Book Fair Coordinator.

The agreement was reached following discussions that started in November 2021 when Sheikha Bodour Al Quasimi, at the invitation of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, visited the Thessaloniki Book Fair in her capacity as President of the International Publishers Association. Discussions on the collaboration between the two international book fairs, Sharjah and Thessaloniki, continued at the Cairo International Book Fair 2022, with Greece as the country of honor, and concluded with this agreement, laying the foundations for the development of a wider program of cultural exchanges, which includes both the book and other aspects of the cultural heritage and contemporary identity of the two countries, through music, theater, visual arts, cinema, etc.

 “We are deeply honored that Sharjah has graciously accepted our invitation to be the guest of honour at the 20th edition of the Thessaloniki International Book Fair in May 2024. With Ahmed Al Ameri we share  the common belief that this agreement constitutes an exceptional opportunity to build new bridges of communication and strengthen the cultural bonds between Greece, Sharjah, the UAE and the Arab World”, stated the President of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, Nikos Koukis, following the signing of the agreement.

Ahmed Al Ameri, Sharjah Book Authority CEO, stated among others: “Sharjah’s participation in the Thessaloniki International Book Fair represents a fresh opportunity for Emirati and Arab culture to engage in profound dialogue with Europe, whose culture was born in Greece and extends across the Mediterranean”.  “Under the guidance of Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, chair of the Book Authority, we eagerly anticipate presenting a comprehensive agenda that mirrors the emirate’s status as a leading cultural city. We’ll narrate its journey of accomplishments as the capital of Arab and Islamic Cultures, World Book Capital, and home to the world’s largest book fair since 2020”, he added.

Prior to Thessaloniki, Sharjah has participated as a guest of honour in major international book fairs including Bologna, London, Paris, Guadalajara and Seoul following a strategy of extroversion and international dialogue and further strengthening it with the annual organization of the International Publishers Conference, with the participation of more than 500 book professionals from all over the world, which are selected following application. This year, within the framework of the cooperation between the two book fairs, Thessaloniki and Sharjah, seven Greek participations were selected with the aim to create a meeting and interaction field in anticipation of the Thessaloniki Book Fair in May 2024.

The design of the programme “Sharjah, Guest of Honour at the Thessaloniki Book Fair 2024” is underway and will be developed through three major axes: literary – with an emphasis on poetry, children’s books, prose history; professional – with initiatives aiming to facilitate publishers to buy rights, translate and publish books; a broader cultural dimension, through the dialogue of books with other arts: visual arts, theatre, cinema, dance, music etc.

Literary Exchanges between Greece and the Arab World

Literary relations and exchanges with the Arab world have significantly been strengthened in recent years within the framework of Greece’s participation as the country of honour at the Cairo International Book Fair, in January 2022. The Hellenic Foundation for Culture had a dynamic presence with authors published in Egypt, such as Persa Koumoutsi and her book Alexandrian Voices, Amanda Michalopoulou and her book Why I Killed my Best Friend, Christos Ikonomou and his book Something Will Happen, You’ll See, Dimitris Sotakis and his book The Resurrection of Michael Jackson and Alexander Kitroeff’s The Greeks and the Making of Modern Egypt.

There followed the publication of the Diver by Minos Efstathiadis, How to Fit All of Ancient Greece in an Elevator by Theodore Papakostas, The Simplest Gift by Stefanos Xenakis, while among the forthcoming editions are a poetry collection by Spiros Kokkinakis, an anthology with works by Constantia Sotiriou, The Bridge of Lemons by Kostas Ferris and Persa Koumoutsi etc.

The Thessaloniki Book Fair is organized by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture in cooperation with Greek publishers, TIF-HELEXPO, the Central Macedonia Region, the Municipality of Thessaloniki, with the Support of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. It is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the 2014-2020 Regional Operational Program for Central Macedonia. TBF is a member of the International Book Fairs Forum and ALDUS UP – the European Book Fairs Network.