Sharjah’s first International Bookseller Conference—possibly the first ever international bookseller conference—has been delayed by a day due to the unexpected death, on May 13, of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates.
With nearly 400 visitors from 57 countries around the world en route or already in Sharjah for an event originally scheduled to take place on May 15 and May 16, it was not at first clear whether the official mourning period would allow the conference to go ahead at all. Delegates were therefore relieved to receive a short statement swiftly issued by the Sharjah Book Authority:
“Sharjah Book Authority expresses its condolences to UAE citizens and the rest of the world including the collective Arab and Islamic nations over the death of the Leader of the Nation and the Guardian of its national development His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, today on Friday, May 13. In view of the mourning conditions that the country is going through, SBA decided to postpone the date of the International Distributors Conference to May 16 and 17.”
With flags flying at half mast, conference visitors instead visited the 13th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival on May 15. This event, now held annually, had been taking place in the Sharjah Expo Center since May 12. Given the circumstances, the Expo Center was rather quieter over the weekend than in more normal times, but had welcomed 28,000 visitors in the first two days of business. This year, the Reading Festival is offering 1,900 activities to its mainly youthful audience, while welcoming nearly 400 artists and 135 exhibiting publishers through its doors.
A version of this story originally appeared in the U.K. newsletter BookBrunch.