SHARJAH, Nov 3 — The 35th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) begins November 2 in the UAE city, ushering in 11 days of literary events as the city details plans to become a bigger player in international publishing.

Sharjah International Book Fair is a public-focused event geared toward book lovers, young readers and publishers and featuring a program of readings, activities and events with well-known authors on the roster. The 2015 edition attracted 1.2 million visitors, according to organisers.

Running through November 12 with the theme “Read More,” the SIBF is this year welcoming 1,420 publishing houses from 60 countries, for a total of more than 1.5 million books on display. While the majority of these publishing houses are from the UAE, a significant number also hail from Egypt, Lebanon, India, the UK, Syria, the US and Saudi Arabia.

Visitors to the event will have more than 1,400 events to choose from in areas related to the arts, entertainment, education and culture. Among them are a Social Media Station, which has invited social media stars to discuss their relationship with fans and followers and how such networks might be used to promote reading and culture, and a Cookery Corner program featuring a diverse roster of chefs, including UK pastry chef Henrietta Inman, London- and Kuwait-based food writer and photographer Sarah al-Hamad, Indian chef and film producer Pradeep and chef and author Morena Leite, who specializes in Brazilian cuisine.

Among the list of 228 international guests set to appear at the fair are US novelist Cassandra Clare (“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”); author of 10 Bourne books Eric Van Lustbader; Indian Nobel Peace Prize recipient Kailash Satyarthi; Egyptian film star Ezzat Al Alaili; Palestinian novelist Rabai al-Madhoun, winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction; and Australian novelist and screenwriter Graeme Simsion.

On the eve of the fair’s 11-day run, Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, spoke to The Bookseller with details about the city’s previously announced plans to open a “Publishing City.” According to the publication, the “City” is set to open in January and to bring in up to 400 international publishers by April.

“What we are trying to do is a United Nations of books, 365 days of continuous book fairs, a lot of programmes and training, panels, discussion,” Al Ameri told The Bookseller.

The book fair, meanwhile, will soon move to a new, purpose-built exhibition center that will see it double in size. The space is hoped to be ready in time for the 2017 fair, according to Al Ameri.

In another recent announcement set to raise the city’s profile on the international publishing stage, Sharjah will be Guest of Honour at the 2018 Sao Paulo International Book Fair.

Recognised as a major event in the Middle Eastern publishing world, the SIBF is notable for its sheer numbers, which put it on par with the book fairs of London and Frankfurt. In the region it is joined by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, notable for its organisers — those behind the Frankfurt Book Fair, perhaps the most important publishing event worldwide — and for hosting the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. — AFP-Relaxnews