Egypt’s biggest book fair sees high visitors’ turnout despite COVID-19

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The two-week 52nd Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) attracted so far about 1 million visitors despite the challenges imposed by COVID-19 pandemic and the relevant strict implementation of precautionary measures, said the fair’s chief organizer Haitham al-Hajj Ali in an interview with the Xinhua News Agency.

“Holding the fair in this way under these circumstances was a very big challenge. We were able to overcome this challenge with the cooperation of all sectors of the state,” the head of the General Egyptian Book Organization (GEBO), which organizes the fair, pointed out.

Ali said the two-week CIBF, which comes to an end on Thursday, is being held under the slogan of “In Reading, There Is Life.”

At least 1,218 publishers from 25 countries, with 800 pavilions, are taking part in the 52nd CIBF, which is being held at the Egypt International Exhibitions Center across a total area of 90,000 square meters, including 40,000 square meters for book displays in four main exhibition halls surrounded by an outdoor area of 50,000 square meters.

Visitors at the fair wore face masks, and a few ones who did not were immediately instructed by organizers and volunteers, who offered face masks for free, to do so.

CIBF used to be held in January and host millions of visitors every year, but it was delayed in 2021 due to COVID-19 and the number of daily visitors was limited to 100,000 to ensure social distancing.

In 2020, it attracted some 3.8 million visitors, according to the top organizer.

After the Egyptian prime minister’s recent decision to increase the capacity of hotels and entertainment places from 50 percent to 70 percent, “we had some room to increase the number of daily visitors from 100,000 to 140,000,” Ali explained.

“I think if the number of visitors reaches 1.5 million this year, it will be very satisfactory,” he added.

To limit and organize visitors in line with anti-coronavirus precautions, CIBF has introduced an online platform for the first time in its history, through which visitors can take a virtual tour throughout the whole fair, watch the fair’s virtual cultural activities, book tickets, explore publishing houses and visit their pavilions, buy books online and more.

“The virtual tour is the first time to be introduced in book fairs in general, so it’s like an innovation of CIBF,” Ali said, clarifying that it provides 3D tours through which visitors can explore pavilions, select books and buy them online if available or plan their purchases ahead of their visit.

The fair’s organizer pointed out that there are between 30,000 and 40,000 book titles available on the online platform.

“The platform will remain open even after the fair, as if it’s a free book fair throughout the year, which will give a chance to publishers who didn’t manage to display their books online to do it later,” Ali said.

He noted that over the past 11 days of the fair, over 140 million visits were made to the online platform, whether from Egypt or abroad, and 100,000 virtual tours were made.

“I believe that the number of visitors greatly reflects the success of this edition of the fair, whether actually or virtually,” the book fair’s chief told Xinhua.

SOURCE – GLOBALTIMES

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