Casablanca book fair showcases Spanish culture

Some 720 exhibitors from 42 countries exhibited more than 128,000 book titles during SIEL’s 25th edition.
Sunday 17/02/2019
Still striving for quality. A visitor browses through a book at the 25th edition of Casablanca’s International Book Fair.     (Saad Guerraoui)
Still striving for quality. A visitor browses through a book at the 25th edition of Casablanca’s International Book Fair. (Saad Guerraoui)

CASABLANCA - Casablanca’s International Book Fair (SIEL) offered a rich programme that showcased books from various parts of the world and celebrated Spain as guest of honour.

Some 720 exhibitors from 42 countries exhibited more than 128,000 book titles during SIEL’s 25th edition, which closed February 17.

SIEL Director Hassan el-Ouazzani said that approximately 350 writers, poets, researchers, economists and politicians from around the world participated in debates and poetry readings.

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani says the book fair “is gaining notoriety year after year, attracting publishing houses and exhibitors from around the world and stands out for the quality of the cultural products on display.”

“The choice of Spain as a guest of honour testifies to Morocco’s openness to the most prominent cultures in the world,” Othmani said, adding that this year’s event promoted the cultural exchange with the Spanish-speaking countries by devoting a pavilion to Latin America.

Ouazzani said Spain’s presence in the fair was a symbol of the closeness of cultural and historic ties between the two countries.

“Spain’s participation as guest of honour also reflects the movement of creativity in the neighbouring country,” said Ouazzani.

Director General of Books and Encouragement of Reading in Spain Garcia Valdes emphasised Moroccans’ growing interest in books in Spanish.

“The Spanish Federation of Publishers sought to establish contacts with Moroccan publishers at SIEL in a bid to promote exchange between both literatures,” said Valdes.

The Spanish pavilion dedicated a storytelling programme of two daily sessions for children aged 6-12 years. The stories sought to strengthen children’s values such as love, cooperation, humility, solidarity and generosity.

The France pavilion spotlighted youth literature with “youth” mornings focused on stories in Arabic and French, drawing and writing workshops. The French Institute of Morocco organised comic book tours, youth writers and writers across Morocco on the sidelines of the book fair.

This year’s edition saw a noticeable Chinese participation in the fair with five publishing houses.

“China has lately become one of the biggest participants in the book fair thanks to an agreement between SIEL and Beijing international book fair to bolster participation in them,” said Ouazzani.

Last year, Morocco was guest of honour at Beijing’s International Book Fair.

SIEL visitors had the opportunity to attend evening gatherings celebrating poetry and the creative power of poetic speech given by Moroccan and Arab poets. Director of the Tetouan House of Poetry Mokhliss Saghir said those events evenings were among the fair’s highlights for lovers of poetry.

“Morocco has always been a land of cultures that has inspired many poets around the world,” said Saghir.

Poets from the Arab world paid tribute to late iconic Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish for his lifetime achievement in poetry.

“Mahmoud Darwish will always be present among us. Through his literary and poetic creations, he touched the most sensitive fibres of his readers and his audience,” said Palestinian writer Yahya Yakhlef. “This emblem of Palestinian poetry is also a voice of the Palestinian resistance, which has promoted the culture of life of his people.”

“Mahmoud Darwish… wrote the text of the Declaration of Independence and the text of the creation of the state of Palestine, which was delivered by Yasser Arafat in 1988 in Algiers, a text that was a rhetoric with a political, civil and humanitarian content,” he added.

The Ibn Battouta Awards for Travel Literature were announced during the book fair.

In the Travel Story category, Jordan’s Haytham Serhan won for “Nachwat Achumul” and Saudi Arabia’s Oussama Ibn Salman al-Falih was honoured for “The Journey of Fathallah Al Halabi.”

The prize for the “Contemporary Journey: The New Sinbad” was won by Sudanese Ahmad Hassan for “Exotic Travel: Travelling in the African Continent,” Egypt’s Mehdi Moubarek for “40 Days in India” and Mokhtar Saad Chahata for “In the Country of Samba: The Daily Life of an Arab in Brazil.”

23