Riyadh Book Fair 2009

So I went to the Riyadh Book Fair this morning and overall I enjoyed it. The venue has been changed from the years before to the brand new Riyadh City Showrooms and they are a lot more spacious than the old showrooms. However what is on show is more limited than previous years. Maybe because it was so crowded the muttawas couldn’t keep up with what all the stalls were selling. A couple of years back I got these gorgeous Iranian posters from the Riyadh Book Fair.

poster 1

poster 2

 This sort of fare is not available now. I wouldn’t have put it beyond the muttawas to black out the illustrations in children’s books or at least cross out the necks of all drawings of people. But they haven’t gone that far. They did have one of the biggest stalls though and not a book in sight. What they did have on display is all the witchcraft that they have confiscated over the years and a huge flat screen TV with a video running showing how they reverse spells. My husband tells me they also have clothes that they confiscated from local shops that supposedly have unIslamic words written on them in foreign languages. He said that one of the T-shits had the word “sexy” emblazoned across the chest. And of course their stall was the most crowded. I wanted to investigate it more but getting any closer might mean that I would rub shoulders with them and that’s not a smart move with me already being on their bad side because my face was uncovered.

black magic

 muttawa crowd

 

I wasn’t impressed with the variety of books at the other stalls. The emphasis was largely on religion with stall after stall displaying books about how to be a good wife and how to choose a wife. The guest of honor this year is Brazil but their presence was not felt at all. Everywhere you turn, there’s either an official muttawa from the vice cops or police. I wanted to stand in the middle and shout at the top of my lungs IT’S A BOOK FAIR NOT WOODSTOCK!

Of all the stalls, I saw only one manned by a woman. She told me that she only comes when the book fair is open to women. She came on the first day and it was open to men only and she found it extremely awkward. So whenever it’s men only, she gets a guy to come in her place. She came all the way from France for this lame book fair. She also said that every now and then a muttawa would stop by her stall and “advise” her to cover her face. The newspapers reported that three men complained to the authorities and requested an official apology from the head of the vice police stating that they are respected authors over the age of fifty and they wanted to say hello to a fellow Saudi author, Halemah Mathfar, who happens to be a woman. She had a book signing and the writers were banned from speaking to her. When one of them broke the rules by waving his hand and calling out to Ms. Mathfar “thank you and goodbye”, the three were escorted to the vice cops office at the fair and given a lecture on proper Islamic conduct. The head sheikh of the vice cops at the book fair, Turki Al Shaleel, made this statement regarding the incident: “Our role at the book fair is regulatory to prevent the occurrence of sin, and we treat everyone with respect and try to resolve issues without escalation. There is an agreement between our organization and the Ministry of Culture and Information on signing books at the show. If the author is a woman people have to have their book signed through a third party so as to prevent her direct contact with the public. What happened is that a group of intellectuals objected to the signing, after controversy they reluctantly agreed to the mechanism. Then one of them provokingly raised his hand in front of everyone and called out to the author «Thank you .. good bye ». So he was asked to come to our office. The three intellectuals came voluntarily to the Office of the Hai’a and were not coerced and they left happy.”

 I took my kids over to the children’s area which is strictly women and children only. Kids can make their own bookmarks and then a young Saudi volunteer laminates them. There was a huge reading corner and many children books to choose from. I was hoping that one of the volunteers would read a story to the kids but they mostly sat in a corner gossiping and laminating. I was tempted to read one of the stories aloud to the kids but then changed my mind. Oh well I hope this muttawa deadlock on everything will ease up a little before next year’s book fair.

12 Comments

Filed under Annual Book Fair

12 responses to “Riyadh Book Fair 2009

  1. haitham

    Personally I was disappointed also. It should be renamed to “Riyadh Islamic Book Fair”! the vast majority of books were religious books. Now I’m not against that at all, but the ratio to other books was comical!

    The location was OK though, but parking needs to be regulated next year, it was a zoo around the entrance on king Abdullah road!

  2. i dont see my previous comment. About someone suggesting books on Arabia?
    hmmm

  3. thats ok. Bascially i was wondering if you knew of any books which i could read set in Arabia. Like ive read Princess (probably not a good example since it portrays in the negative)…

    Any ideas?🙂

    • saudiwoman

      Raja al Sanea’s Girls of Riyadh is much more accurate and closer to reality, especially middle-class Saudi women, even though most Saudis would deny it. It’s too close to home for their comfort.

  4. cool i will add this to my reading list! and please feel free to suggest more if anything you think is interesting!🙂

  5. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Arabian Gulf: Culture, culture everywhere

  6. Pingback: Growing pains of reform in Saudi Arabia « life thru dusty lenses

  7. Pingback: Global Voices dalam bahasa Indonesia » Dunia Arab: Kebudayaan Merajalela

  8. Pingback: Riyadh Book Fair 2010 « Saudiwoman’s Weblog

  9. gazi gulam nabi

    We have published a poetry book titled “Zindagi Aik Darya Hai” which is written in Urdu language. The Hindi translation of the same has also been done and is also included in the same book. The life story of the author of this book is also written in English and Urdu language, in which how common men of 21st Century became a poet who is businessman by profession and have some political background also. When fundamentalism, communalism and terrorism was everywhere in the atmosphere and under these circumstances how a person manages and continues his efforts to give the message of peace and universal brotherhood through his poetry.

    This book has been appreciated by the people from all walks of life at both national and international level and different agencies of the country has purchased the same book for educational institution. Our cultural ministry and HRD ministry of India have ordered this book for school education, higher education and for different libraries of the country.
    This book contains the reflection of Sufism and contours of spirituality and narrowness of the politics.

    We as (Tarana Manzil) appeals to national and international book exporters and all the world government educational agencies to purchase the same book, so that our message of peace and universal brotherhood will reach to the masses. We want to appeal the national and international media to please cooperate us in our mission of peace and betterment of the world society.

    Zehan ko kholkar dekh, Aasman kahan par hai,
    Aa dekh sitaroon ki bulandi kahan par hai,
    Aa rahi tu wahan fasanay jahan khatum hotay nahin,
    Sab kuch khatum hoga yahan, mera nishan baki hai

    Our forthcoming Publications are
    1. Phool Khila Kashmir Ka (Urdu Language)
    2. Voice of Kashmir (English)
    3. Chaier Kiyazi Gouw (Kashmiri)

    Gazi Glam Nabi Kashmiri
    Poet & Writer

    Add: C- 122 Raju Park Khanpur New Delhi –62,INDIA
    Ph: 9311334792.01129915122
    E-mail: taranamanzil@yahoo.com

  10. Arizona Premium Mattress is proud to be amongst the newest Latex Blss dealers in Phoenix, AZ.
    Likewise, the car battery mounted by the front driver’s seat is so instead of in the engine compartmment where batteries
    are usually located. More importantly, the new owners have focused on getting evsry room spotless annd completely functipnal and adding realy significant amenities such as super-comfy mattresses
    guaranteed to produce maximum slumber.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s