Cairo Book Fair Fairground, trading venue and cultural showcase

The 2015 Cairo Book Fair
The 2015 Cairo Book Fair | © picture alliance / dpa

For over twenty years, the Goethe-Institut has been a part of the the Cairo International Book Fair, offering a survey of German literature, new translations into Arabic and German-Egyptian cultural work.

By Amira El Ahl

The International Book Fair in Cairo is not only the world’s oldest book fair, but also one of the largest. In 2015, it was attended by 850 publishers and booksellers from 28 countries who presented about 70 million books. Every day, approximately 120,000 people came to the fairground in Nasr City, 200,000 on top days. The fair not only attracts a professional audience, but also many students and other book lovers. Since the fair is traditionally held during the school holidays it is also a popular destination for families. Admission costs a less than ten cents and is affordable to almost everyone. With its green spaces and food stands, the spacious fairground is a little like a folk festival.

The German joint stand has been set up in the same place, hall 19, for the past twenty years, which has been possible due to the support of the Auswärtiges Amt. In addition to the Börsenverein’s Ausstellungs- und Messe GmbH, the stand also accommodates the Goethe-Institut, the embassy’s Deutschlandzentrum and Egyptian booksellers offering German works for the local market.

Gabriele Becker, director of the Goethe-Institut Cairo, opens the German joint stand at the Cairo Book Fair. Gabriele Becker, director of the Goethe-Institut Cairo, opens the German joint stand at the Cairo Book Fair. | Photo: Amira El Ahl Visitors to the fair can discover a broad range of German literature including children’s books, fiction and nonfiction. “We focus on presenting interesting titles that have been translated in recent years,” explains Sabine Reddel, the Goethe-Institut’s head of information services and translation programmes for the North Africa-Middle East region. “That’s why we also make an effort to present new translations from German into Arabic at the stand.”

During the cultural programme, the translator Samir Grees presented his Günter Grass und die arabische Welt. Author Jonas Lüscher and his translator Ola Adel read from his novel Barbarian Spring, which was issued in Arabic by Al Arabi Publishing. The German literature portal was also presented. The portal presents new German releases in fiction, nonfiction, books for children and young people and promotes translations, focussing on one language over a number of years, on Arabic between 2015 and 2017.

The professional programme for publishers focused largely on e-books. On the book fair’s opening day, the Goethe-Institut invited Steffen Meier, head of product innovation and marketing at Readbox Publishing, to speak on why publishers should invest in e-books. In addition Meier, Luis Collado (Google Play, Spain) and Alaa Zaher (Kotobi, Egypt) discussed challenges for e-books on the (Arabic) book market.

The Goethe-Institut also takes advantage of the book fair to promote its language work. “We present our cultural programme and our language courses at the stand. The language courses are the most in-demand,” says Reddel. To offer an impression of what a German course is like, the Goethe-Institut also offers introductory courses on site. The institute cannot complain about a lack of language students. The German language is quite popular in Egypt, with approximately 85,000 children taking German at school and almost 12,800 students of German registered at universities. In Cairo alone, the Goethe-Institut has 6,500 language learners. “We can’t keep up with the demand,” Reddel boasts, which is why the institute has now opened a branch at the Higher Institute of Languages at Egypt’s Culture & Science City.