Casablanca International Book Fair devotes special attention to children

More than 700 exhibitors from 45 countries took part in the fair.
Sunday 18/02/2018
Visitors browse books at the 24th Casablanca International Book Fair.    (Saad Guerraoui)
Next generation. Visitors browse books at the 24th Casablanca International Book Fair. (Saad Guerraoui)

CASABLANCA - The 24th Casablanca International Book Fair ended on a high note thanks to its rich programme, with an emphasis on children, that drew huge crowds throughout its 10-day run.

More than 700 exhibitors from 45 countries took part in the fair, exhibiting more than 125,000 titles. Moroccan and foreign researchers, writers and speakers participated in colloquiums, thematic conferences, poetry evenings, meetings and presentations of new publications.

Seven Moroccans were among the 12 winners of the 2017-18 Ibn Battuta Award for Travel Literature at a ceremony organised by the Arab Centre for Geographical Literature — Exploration of Horizons in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Communication.

This award, named after 14th-century Moroccan scholar and traveller Muhammad Ibn Battuta, was introduced by the Arab Centre for Geographical Literature in 2003 to encourage writers to work on investigation projects, research and geographical and travel literature.

The Attijariwafa Bank Foundation announced the Book of the Year Award, which, beginning next year, will be given each February to two authors of books published in both Arabic and French. Attijariwafa Bank CEO Mohamed el-Kettani said the award winners would receive 30,000 dirhams ($3,270) and a trophy.

A large part of the festival programme was dedicated to children. Activities, including artistic and scientific workshops, reading sessions and storytelling recitals, took place in spaces between stands.

Book Fair Director Hassan el-Ouazzani said this year’s edition gave children the opportunity to express themselves in workshops and debates to promote a culture of creativity and critical thinking.

“Many children came from different cities such as Rabat to attend the most important cultural event in the calendar and one of the most visited book fairs in the world,” said Ouazzani.

The ministry in charge of human rights organised a debate between Casablanca Deputy Mayor Abdelmalek Lakehayli and teenagers about children’s rights. Lakehayli said the children proved that they were aware of the political and social problems facing Casablanca.

“They showed a clear understanding of what’s going on in terms of human rights. I explained the main duties of the council towards children and they gave me in turn some suggestions and solutions that I can describe as developed,” said Lakehayli.

“Such debates are very important for children because they understand what they need and want in terms of basic human rights that all children deserve such as education.”

Egypt was the guest of honour at this year’s book fair. Marwan Hammad, an official in the Egyptian cultural delegation, said his country’s programme depicted cultural and artistic activities, including debates and colloquiums on novels, poetry and the most important issues related to the historic and cultural ties between Egypt and Morocco.

However, an Egyptian publishing house sparked controversy from local media when it exhibited a book titled “The Summary of the General History of Africa,” whose cover displayed the map of disputed Western Sahara as the “Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.”

Moroccan media demanded explanations from the Ministry of Culture after the book was withdrawn from the shelves. It was one of 25 books reported to have been banned from the fair for “undermining Morocco’s territorial integrity” or “blasphemy.”

“If this reprehensible act had passed under other skies, one would have understood, but that this act affecting the integrity of the kingdom’s territory is happening at home, it deserves clarification from the ministry of culture, sponsor of this cultural high mass,” reported, a news website close to the palace.