In Frankfurt… Have the Arabs Succeeded in Enhancing Their Image?

In Frankfurt… Have the Arabs Succeeded in Enhancing Their Image?

The Arabs set foot on a journey to the Frankfurt Book Fair, not in search of grazing and water, as they used to do in the olden days, but to enter into a dialogue and enhance their negative image, hoping that Europe, which is shrouded in clouds of scepticism and neglect, will be convinced that they have a cultural and civilized image incompatible with such accusations of terrorism attached to them. This journey was also an attempt to get over the barriers of backwardness surrounding them. Have the Arabs succeeded in doing this ? To answer this question and please all those who love details, let's tell the story right from the start.

In his keynote speech read on his behalf at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Naguib Mahfouz said : "I thank the German people and I'm grateful to it for inventing the printing type". He meant that literally and spatially In a small town mean Frankfurt the genius of one of the greatest human minds, Johannes Gutenberg, led him to discover the technology of printing using movable type in 1455, something that brought about a complete revolution in knowledge as books became readily available to all, and through it rare information passed to individuals and generations. Earlier books printed by booksellers were rare and beyond the reach of everybody. The first book which Gutenberg printed was the Bible, for fear of reaction to his invention ; however, the Catholic Church quickly rejected that 'satanic' work, asserting that it had the exclusive right to possess the piles of manuscripts stacked in its cellars considered to be their theological secrets. The Ottomans were also quick in refusing entry of the printing press into any part of their empire for about 500 years and produced gold-plated manuscripts only. The printing press did not enter our Arab world until the end of the eighteenth century with of the French Expedition against Egypt.

It is then only natural for Frankfurt to become the capital of books. It achieved this status at the dawn of the Renaissance in the fifteenth century. Though the German Kaisers imposed restrictions on this city and made Leipzig a major publishing centre, it regained its status after World War II when 'The Union of Book Markets' was founded. A book fair has been held annually since 1964 and has become the most important of its kind in the world. In spite of the fact that Germany comes in third place after the USA and Britain as far as the production of books is concerned, the number of American and British publishers who share in the Frankfurt Fair exceeds those who share in the Chicago and London Fairs.

The Frankfurt Fair is the only venue in the world where we can see the level of development which this lovable industry, which has been the key to human progress. During the Fair days tens of symposiums and seminars are held and hundreds of deals concluded. Figures bear witness to the magnitude of this event. It is the largest publishing market with 6638 publishers and 180 thousand visitors from about 100 countries. Additionally, it is the biggest information market covered by 12 thousand journalists from 80 countries. Almost 300 cultural events are organized, 80 thousand new titles exhibited, and all this takes place in five days only.

An Extraordinary Guest

The Arab world was present in October this year (2004), but that was not a token presence as it used to be in previous years, when the space occupied was less than 300 cubic metres, and participation in this event was by one title only, but this year, the stands occupied two thousand cubic metres where about 12 thousand books were on display, and the Arabs were also guests of honour at this international cultural forum.

The 'guest of honour' idea dates back to 1976 when the Fair administration found it a good opportunity to shed light on new cultures outside Europe and give them the chance to appear not during the short fair period only but for the duration of a whole year during which a lot of cultural events, including lectures, art exhibitions, concerts, plays and films, are organized in all German cities. In this context, the fair hosted the cultures of Latin America and a number of European and Asian Countries. Russia was the guest of honour last year (2003). How have the Arabs become the guests of honour this year?

I put that question to Dr Al-Munj Abou Senena, Director General of the Arab League Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, who was chosen as general coordinator of the Arab participation and he answered : "It is not only a book fair, but also a showcase for all aspects of Arabic culture. This presence is necessary in the face of all allegations of terrorism against us. The Arab world was invited as guest of honour as early as 2001 following the famous New York attacks in September, when anti Arab sentiments were at their peak and accusations levelling at us from all directions. As a rare initiative, the Germans decided to offer us the chance to give a different picture of the Arab world, one of culture and civilized depth, but we made no reply to the invitation. Later on, the former Lebanese Ministry of Culture, Ghassan Salama, suggested to the Arab League Secretary General that we should accept that invitation. The matter was considered and approved at a meeting of the ministers of information, and here we are".

Nevertheless, the matter was not that simple : differences over almost all arrangements of the participation arose : to go or not to go ? Shall we go as one bloc or individually ? If we go as one group, who will represent us ? Who will bear the costs ? .. How will we divide that amount : according to population or the country's wealth ? How many books, guests, etc. per country ?

Secretary General Amr Moussa smiled when I asked him my questions as he was going around the Arab publishers' stand and stopped for a while to browse State of Kuwait's publications as the covers of Al-Arabi magazine attracted his attention and he commented : "The entire Arab world is found in this magazine, and this is important. Similarly, we have come here as one Arab world. I know that this place is not a forum for political debate, but a place to affirm our civilized, cultural and intellectual presence. We have suffered failure many a time, and would like to try success. I'm proud of this cultural movement which made our presence here under one name possible, maintaining our diversity in the meantime."

The matter was not ideal, either, as portrayed by the Secretary General's words. The selection of one Arab delegation was subject to such arguments, bargaining and threats that the whole journey to the North was in danger of cancellation. As a key member of the committee in charge of choosing those who would represent their countries said : "It was a daunting process that revealed the scale of contradictions in the Arab world. Nearly 50% of those who attended this event have nothing to do with thought or culture but were forced on us. One country's representative e.g. rejected all the persons we nominated and instead pushed a list of names we never heard of before. I'm a good reader, I suppose, and know all those involved in Arabic culture, but none of them was on the list. As a cry of protest I told the representative that real cultured persons should not be excluded and unknown employees imposed on us, but, cold bloodedly, he answered that he had orders and if the persons on the list were not accepted, his country would not share in the delegation. A similar incident happened in more than one country : cultured persons were excluded and replaced by employees acceptable to government agencies. However, it was not a total loss. We have come with a good group of really learned persons capable of engaging in balanced dialogue with others.

It is worth saying that the German Foreign Ministry attempted to remedy that defect. It invited a select group of cultured persons and thinkers, including al-Arabi's Editor in Chief, Dr Sulaiman Al-Askari, who accepted the invitation, but fell ill and was confined to bed for the duration of the Fair and was thus unable to share. Similarly, the novelist Gamal Al-Ghitani criticized the formation of the delegations. He went to the Fair independently of the League's delegation in protest at the formation of the delegation which ignored many prominent literary figures, and he therefore accepted the invitation of the German Foreign Ministry which included a group of the intellectual elite not covered by the League's generosity.

Al-Ghitani insisted that he would complete the agreed programme though he fell ill upon his arrival in Germany. He received emergency treatment and kept standing for the duration of the Fair. He said :

"Fortunately, the Germans are good at sorting out the good from the bad. They have pretty good knowledge of Arabic literature and have translated a number of Arabic works, but still not many, and we have to seize this opportunity to correct that. We are in need of an Arabic organization affiliated to the Arab League to be responsible for translating Arabic literature and thought into living languages, otherwise, Arab writers will be isolated. Translation alone can sort out real writers from false ones. We don t want this Fair to be a passing event, but should turn it into a permanent effort."

The novelist Miral Al-Tahawi went widely around Stand Four housing German publishers, and showed me her three novels translated into German saying : "See for yourself the books and novels translated into German. This stand dismisses the allegations made by those who claim that their books have been translated. The Germans are not naïve, and are careful in their choices " But there is unanimous agreement that that was a rare chance for Arabic and Islamic culture which would shed light on the role it played in the past and the degree of tolerance it enjoys at present and show that it was able and prepared to enter into a dialogue of civilizations. All we should do is make good use of this opportunity and abandon those minor differences which spoil everything.

But, why has the invitation to dialogue come from Germany ? Why not from Britain or France which had colonized the region and were the reason behind many of its problems and claim they are more familiar with it than others ?

The love of the East

The East belongs to God,

The West belongs to God,

The vast expanse of the North and the South is settled in thy hands, Mahammad,

If Islam means submission to God,

We will all live and die Muslims.

The above is not a poem by a Sufi in ecstasy, but verses from 'The Easterm Divan' by the great German poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe. The book contains many poems, in addition to a play about the life of the great Prophet from the East, which led some critics to say that Goethe embraced Islam or at least was on the threshold of Islam before he died. Anyhow, what is certain is that the 'Divan' is the result of profound influence by and admiration of the masterpieces of Arabic and Islamic heritage discovered by generations of German orientalists.

Germany has no or little colonial history in our region in general; it was limited to some African colonies and for brief periods. It was involved in two devastating world wars in an attempt to divide colonies with the British and French Empires, but the attempt failed and Germany itself became an occupied and partitioned country. Therefore, most accusations usually brought against orientalists that their efforts are not made for the sake of knowledge and the truth but to serve colonial ends and are designed to understand the East and Islam, in preparation for occupation do not apply to the Germans. We can't question their academic accuracy, either or their introduction of modern research methods, adopted by Arabs and Muslims who undertook authentication of the heritage later on. An excellent illustration of this is Eduard Sachau, the German pioneer of orientalism, who authenticated and translated the well known book 'Al Tabaqat Al-Kubra' by Ibn Saad. Sachau sent the initial drafts to the Egyptian Ministry of Education requesting to refer them to Al-Azhar scholars for review and correction. Imam Muhammad Abdou returned the manuscript to Sachau with 150 corrections which he observed upon printing the book.

The Institute of the History of Arabic and Islamic Sciences at Frankfurt University collected all works of German orientalists about the Arab and Muslim worlds in ten massive volumes. This project is still awaiting translation into Arabic by an institution which adopts and finances it.

In his book, Dr Muhammad Awni Abdul Raouf says that early German orientalists' efforts were designed to understand and face Islam as the Turkish armies were penetrating deep into Europe and threatening to capture its major cities before they stopped on the outskirts of Vienna. Europe found that it had scarcely got rid of that religion with the fall of Granada when it came back with the Ottomans from the East. This many be one of the characteristics of European centralism : its ability to understand and deal with others. The Germans did that with Islam, although it posed serious threat then. Christian princes were interested in buying Islamic manuscripts and embarked on investigating them, and that required learning Arabic. Jackon Kristmann (1554 1615) made the first attempt to write a simplified Arabic learning book, and to that end he collected verses from the Bille translated into Arabic to be his guide. When he became professor at Heidelberg University he suggested establishing a chair of Arabic Studies. and imported Arabic types from Rome and wrote the first Arabic German dictionary.

That interest was not confined to university quarters. The German king Frederich III sent a military mission to Persia in an attempt to forge an alliance with it against the Turks. The mission lasted for five years but failed to accomplish its military objective; however, it built a bridge of cultural contact between the Eastern and Western civilizations. Among its results was 'Description of the Eastern Journey', a book written by Adam Oleri in 1671, which was shortly afterwards translated into all European languages carrying a specimen of the flavour of the East and of the poetry of Hafez of Shiraz and Saadi, which stirred the romance of that age.

At the dawn of the Renaissance, Arabic studies were freed of the chains of fanaticism, and a new generation of orientalists using new academic methods emerged, and so did eminent scholars, such as Von Hamer Boreschtal, who wrote a history of Arabic literature in seven volumes. That approach was continued by one of the most important orientalists, Karl Brocklemann, who wrote 'History of Arabic Literature', which, together with Fuad Siskin's book, is to date regarded as the best reference in its field.

Besides their authentication and translation efforts, German orientalists made a remarkable effort in collecting and indexing Arabic manuscripts, the largest collection of which is in the Berlin Library, second only to the Escorial library in Madrid. A major contribution to this effort was made by the German Orientalists Society, which was founded in Halle in 1845, and which published the Islamic Encyclopedia, which we failed to date to translate the whole of it.

Orientalists' efforts extended as well to language academies immediately upon their foundation. Professor Fischer Weltman joined the Academy of Arabic Language in Cairo, and his colleagues Brocklemann and Martin Hartmann became members of the Damascus Academy.

As the above shows, the relationship between the Germans and Arabic culture is old, and they might have been among the key contributors to the revival of its classical part, but what about contemporary Arabic culture ? Were we able on our own initiative to present it to them to prove that we are not merely a 'heritage' nation living in the glories of the past, but able to share in modernization. That was the objective behind going to Frankfurt. Has it been achieved ?

The Arab Stand

The Arab delegations shared in many activities approximately 300 thinkers and writers, some of whom came as members of the Arab League or their national delegations, others had been living in exile for years and used this forum as reunion with old fellows from old homelands. Participation was not limited to writers only There were folk dance troupes from Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia and even Palestine... The most famous musicians, Naseer Shamaa and Marcel Khalifa Tens of folk singers. There were also a number of art exhibitions, for modern art, exhibiting the paintings of prominent artists children's drawings .. An exhibition of the copies of the Glorious Quran and Coptic icons. Many handicrafts were also represented, and a key member of the organizing committee insisted on carrying Café Riche, where many intellectuals, including Naguib Mahfouz, used to sit, from central Cairo to one of Frankfurt's squares. He negotiated seriously for carrying the tables, chairs and pictures hung on the walls, but when he was sarcastically criticized, he dropped his idea at the last moment. In short, the core of Arab arts and traditional crafts went to Frankfurt, except for one thing relevant to the Frankfurt Fair, namely books.

The Arab stand had many strengths. Praiseworthy efforts were made. Large colour portraits were displayed at the main entrance of the Fair, some of which were imagined pictures of prominent old Arab thinkers, such as Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Al-Haitham, others were of contemporary writers, such as Taha Hussein, Al-Hakim, Moenis Al-Razzaz, Al-Arawi and Hannah Minah. There were also showcases exhibiting English translations of Naguib Mahfouz's books which were made and published in elegant editions by the American University in Cairo.

The stand contained an information section about all Arab countries prepared by the Alexandria Library. A computer was assigned for each country in which all political, geographical and historical data is was stoned and with a single click one could access all such data in addition to photographs. Even the five Arab countries which did not participate in the Fair were represented in this respect. A group of young men showed the Germans how to use the computer. The group was trained by Dr Yusuf Zeidan, Director of Manuscripts at the Library. The Heritage Documentation Section at the Library presented an exhibition of its acquisitions, in addition to a 180° convex screen displaying a 20 minute show of Egyptian civilization and Arabic heritage. The show was run all day and was very popular. When the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer visited the stand he told Dr Fathi Saleh he had only five minutes to spend with him, and so the centre showed many wonderful successive pictures of Cairo from the Nile, Alexandria from the sea and some pharaonic antiquities. The five minutes passed, but the Minister stayed and said : "You have five more minutes". The centre chose one of the longest and oldest pharaonic papyrus to show him. The papyrus was about 30 metres long and contained a number of mathematical problems showing the level of progress that the ancient Egyptians achieved in the field of mathematics.

Similarly, the Arab stand included an important section arranged by the Institute of Islamic Sciences supervised by the orientalist Professor Fuad Siskin. The section exhibited miniature models of the Arabs' and Muslims' inventions in the areas of agriculture, irrigation, medicine, astronomy and mathematics. When I tried to talk in English with Professor Sizkin he said : "Why don t you better speak in Arabic ?" His Arabic was really as good as expected of a professional orientalist. As we went round the perfectly made models he said : "These models are replicas of those found in heritage witnessing to the degree of technological advancement that the Arabs had reached. What is here represents 10% only of what is found in the Institute".

"We have come for dialogue with others, but in many instances it was self-dialogue," said an Arab thinker expressing his displeasure at failure to attract the public, most of whom were Arabs in exile. That was not true of all symposiums, some of which attracted a wider public and witnessed the expression of daring and interesting views. The problem was that the symposiums were so many, overlapping and spaced wide apart that it was impossible to attend most of them. Arab-German dialogue took place in the Forum hall, while literature and poetry readings were given in a pavillion in the centre of the Fair called 'Okaz Souk', addition to the symposiums held by the German side in the international centre. Added to this were the readings and symposiums which ran from 6 p.m to mid-might in the headquarters of German writers outside the Fair.

There was much talk, some of which was of a high standard and proportionate in terms of the level of discussion and Arab German participation, some of which was not quiet or objective and looked like a game of table tennis, tit for tat. The Arabs accused the westerners of being the cause of the Arabs' backwardness, saying European colonialism demarked their borders against their will and implanted Israel among them and is still supporting it, and deny them access to information necessary for technological advancement. Though those who shared in dialogue from the German side were Arab sympathizers and specialized in Arabic studies, these accusations involved their academic objectivity, to say the least. They described the current conditions of the Arabs as being unable to create modernization, due to the absence of adequate democracy in Arab regimes, which curtailed the margin of freedom and made creativity extremely limited. Furthermore, the Arabs did not make good use of their economic resources, they even waste them and insist on marginalizing a large section of society, namely Arab women. When there was much talk about colonialism as the cause of backwardness, Michael Loads replied excitedly : "Colonialism left you 50 years ago, the age of a mature man. Why didn t you do anything during that period ? For example, a big Arab country has not made any investment in the railway sector since it took it over from colonialism in the 1950s, the result is that its citizens die every day because of such gross negligence.

There were too many Arab speakers. At one symposium there were seven speakers as against one German speaker. I don t know who organized that unbalanced programme. But many symposiums turned into rhetoric and robust defence by some officials of their governments' domestic policies and justification of all their errors. Anis Mansour was extraordinarily angry at any criticism of the Egyptian politics and talked apparently spontaneously about his friendship with Israel and how he visited it about 40 times during the Sadat time and said he rang his friends following the attack on a Taba hotel. He didn t know that his audience watched the massacres perpetrated by Israel in Gaza for two weeks. The Arab audience was displeased at his words and made him aware of that. I don t know how the German audience's reaction to his boastful style was.

Some evening performances were a great success, particularly if art distances itself from politics in its crude form. In the home of German literature we attended a wonderful recital by poet Mahmoud Darwish. The hall was full of Germans and Arabs, and the poet read his poems in Arabic with simultaneous translation by Adel Qrashouli, another Arab poet of Syrian origin living in Germany and writing in German. 'Mr Poetry' dominated the scene, and Darwish was a living example of the civilization of his people facing genocide and the voice expressing their suffering and yearning for a land not threatened with death day and night. Another poetry reading was given the Arab poet Adonis. (Wicked people say he kept himself in his room all the time and only left it after it was announced that the Austrian poet Ebda Freida had won the Nobel Literature Prize). But that's another story. Adonis read his poems accompanied by playing on the oud by the brilliant Iraqi musician Naseer Shama, while Riham Abdulhakim and Mai Farouk sang his difficult poetry and the German audience who exceeded one thousand in number were deeply fascinated by their rich, melodious voice.

The Jews' Revolt

We had perhaps to measure how important and necessary this Arab participation was and how successful it was from another perspective : its impact on Israel and its Jewish supporters in Europe.

They were sure right from the outset that the Arabs would fail to reach a unanimous agreement on going to Frankfurt. A columnist wrote sarcastically in 'Yidinout Ahronot' : "Why do the Arabs spend such a lot of money going to Europe ? They had better spend it on supporting the Arabs' human rights and ensuring their freedoms." Bu when the Arabs appeared to be determined to go, Jewish organizations started their countermove. The Jewish Institute Simone Fizintal in Paris sent a letter to the Director of the Frankfurt Fair, Volker Neumann, requesting him to exclude all anti Jewish books from the Fair. The list included 'The sins of Jews and Judaism', and another book about the Mossad. The German authorities examined these books and Jorg Klaun, attorney general of Hessen State in which Frankfurt is situated said those books did not contain anything that clashed with German laws which prohibit anti-Semitism or denial of the Holocaust, accordingly, their presence in the Fair was legal.

German associations then objected to the presence of some members of the Arab delegations, especially Dr Abdulwahab Al-Miseeri, on the pretext that he wrote an encyclopedia in which he attacked the Jews and exposed their schemes. It was reported that he would go to the Fair as a writer of children's books and that he was happy as such and that he had recently started that genre. I don t know how far that was true. I saw him giving a lecture at a symposium on the current trends in Arab thought and another symposium arranged by Al-Fikr Al-Arabi publishing house. His Encyclopedia of the Jews was even at the top of the books in Dar al-Shorouk's Stand.

The German press launched an organized campaign against Neumann himself and published paid advertisements under the heading 'No dialogue with terrorists' and urged all Jews in Germany and in all Europe if possible to gather in front of the main gate of the Fair and stage a huge demonstration against the Arabs on the penultimate day of the Fair, which was a holiday and open to the general public. I was keen to go early to see that demonstration, but all I found was a small table on which the Israeli flag was raised in front of which stood a number of people carrying some booklets about the Holocaust Another person distributed colour leaflets carrying a statement on which was printed a picture of an American soldier hanging the American flag on Saddam's statue. I don t know what the message be wanted to send from republishing this old picture was. When I asked the man to give me a copy of the statement he stared at me and hesitated for a while, but because of the few people around him, and as not a single blond person cared for him, he gave me one. It was in German with an English translation carrying the list of about 45 supportive organizations and Jewish persons. The statement read : "All Arab countries represented in this Fair are without exception repressive, inhibiting freedoms, suppressing the written word. What use is cultural dialogue then ? It's nothing. Just one - way dialogue. Most of the books here are not translated and are understood only by those who read Arabic. All Arabs whose books have been translated live in exile and are not represented in the delegations. The citizens of most participating countries do not enjoy any political rights or freedom of worship (?!) and women are denied equal rights as men (?!) There is no protection for minorities, e.g., homosexuals who are subject to abuse and beating to death (?!). All media in those countries promote violence, destruction of Israel and killing Jews. The most famous book they print is "Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion", which is false propaganda against Semitism. Cultural dialogue requires a partner.. a partner who observes not only the rules of freedom of thought and writing but also the freedom of citizens, be they men or women, Muslims, Jews or Christians, homosexuals or heterosexuals. All these things form part of respecting human rights."

The statement continues this kind of falsehood and in the usual impudence of butchers, but it least gives us a glimpse of the language used by Israel in addressing the West, a language I think is no longer successful, and the fact that the demonstration which the Jews did their best to organize was a complete failure bears witness to this.

The book the aggrieved party

The Arabic book was the stranger and injured party at the Frankfurt Fair.

True.. Many publishers carried their latest publications, and the Arab League set up a large 12,000-book stand, but all this carried nothing new : poor typing and preparation and in a language not read in this European country. Only a few books were in English and these were handled by the Germans. Apart from this, the public, and more importantly the publishers, passed through the Arab stands casually, some of which even seized that opportunity to promote their regimes and hung photos of their heads of state prominently hoping to win the admiration of the German public. Some stands exhibited one book only in English, which was a biography of its leader, and stand officialls begged visitors to take a copy of the book in order not to return with it. President of the Union of Arab Publishers, Ibrahim Al-Meallim walked diligently around the Fair all the time accompanied by Arab and German officials. When I enquired about the new book contracts he made he said he was optimistic, it was just the start. But the other publishers were not so optimistic. Samah Idris said all contracts went in one direction. We requested the right of translation into Arabic, but nobody requested the other way round. The same complaint was voiced by other publishers who went to the Fair as professionals and, not for propaganda purposes.

At noon every day I walked around the Arab stand to find it completely empty of visitors, with employees sitting yawning in front of the stacks of books, but going just a few steps to the section of French publishers in the same stand I found it bustling with life, each publisher displaying its publications beautifully and featuring the photos of its writers prominently, in addition to attractive paintings illustrating the covers of the latest publications. Taking a few other steps to the location of the American and British publishers I found myself in a different world. In some cases books looked like magnificent showpieces, dealing with all topics and issues, and, more importantly, each stand turned into something like a coffee shop, with publishers sitting at small tables displaying their goods to customers who were also publishers in other languages, and every minute a copyright was sold and contracts in millions of euros signed, and the section was closed for a few moments with a yellow ribbon, and all present celebrated the deal, then the ribbon was lifted, and the scene was set once again for signing another contract. The charm of the paper book has not faded yet, and whatever is said about the electronic book, the former is still thriving. More importantly, the book industry is a huge one and we are quite far away from it. In Germany alone, people spend 16 million euros annually on buying books, an amount exceeding the budgets of many countries in Africa combined. Publishers produce a variety of books : some about classical literature, others about plastic arts, travel or Egyptology. Some publishers even came to show just one book, and others brought eminent authors to engage in dialogues, point out the sources of their creativity and sign new books. A huge, thriving industry, and not stagnant and sluggish like the poor Arabic book which actually lives on the sidelines of this industry. I return sad to my silent corner. I asked the publishers who spent a lot of money to cover the cost of travel and spending in this city where prices go up during the Fair, and their answer was : nothing. In fact they had nothing to sell except some literary works, and these are bought by westerners according to their preferences. However, everybody was still optimistic and said it was just the start and would try more next tine. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that this Fair and participation showed that the books we produce and the achievements we boast of are totally alien to creative thought, original culture and academic research in the full sense of the word. They also showed that we live in the past, special and painful past and not in touch with contemporary life, Failure to attract the world to that huge amount of the books we displayed has given us a terrible shock, which exposed a defect in us we tried long to hide, namely our published works only reveal the scale of our intellectual and cultural backwardness.

And the five-day Fair comes to a close, but other Arab activities and events will take place in different German cities for a whole year, during which we must learn how to engage in dialogue and discover a common language with the West, and above all polish our image and introduce some worthwhile political and economic reforms.


Muhammad Al-Munsi Qandil


Amr Moussa, the Arab League Secretary – General, visiting Kuwait's stand at the Frankfurt Fair

A symposium on Islam and the challenges of the times, in which the Arab thinker Kamal Abul Magd and the German researcher Hanz Kong, Professor of the Philosophy of Religions, in Switzerland participated

Which country is the largest producer of new books ? What is the percentage of each country's participation in the Frankfurt Fair ?

Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, the Egyptian President's wife, attended the Fair and gave a talk about the Family Library experiment and the role of culture and the development of the teaching – learning process in the fight against terrorism

The Arab writer Miral Al- Tahawi, whom the Germans know well as a result of the translation of her three novels. The same is true of other Arab writers, e.g. Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis Gamal Al-Ghitani and Ibrahim Abdulmageed

The German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, accompanied by Ibrahim Al- Meallim, Arab Publishers' Union President, visiting the Arab stand, where he watched a visual display arranged by the Alexandria Library

The Fair provided not only books but a number of art activities as well. These two Lebanese musicians gave musical performances which attracted a big audience

Even Chef Ramzi was there. He carried his cookery book and some books on tourism in Lebanon and occupied a place in the Fair

A recital of Adonis's poetry, Naseer Shama's music and Riham Abdulhakim's and Mai Farouk's songs

Whereas the Arab stands were sleepy foreign publishers were like a beehive of activity where deals were made every moment. The Frankfurt Fair has proved that we are remote from this international industry

Dr Fuad Siskin, President of the Institute of Islamic Sciences in Frankfurt reviewing a section of the Arab inventions reproduced from the models found in old Islamic manuscripts

Arabic heritage books had their public in the Fair, particularly as Germany was one of the countries most interested in Arabic and Islamic heritage, and published many of its masterpieces, including Ibn Sad's 'Tabaqat'

Seven rare Mameluke copies of the Glorious Quran were on display as examples of the 'Masterpieces of the Art of Islamic Gilding' project carried out by the 'Maknaz' Society of Cambridge University

A German visitor showing her admiration for Yemeni jewels made of silver and precious stones

A Sudanese publisher protesting against the absence of a Sudanese section within the Arab stand. He spread out his books on the floor everyone to see

What are the visitors' book preferences ? Many things, on top of which novels and autobiographies, followed by science and technology books

A symposium in which Anis Mansour and the Algerian Muhammed Harbi and the German orientlist Michael Loads shared and was chaired by Astrid Frolov, member of the European Parialement. Mansour was nervous rejecting all criticisms

Korea will be next book fair's guest of honour. Korean girls in their national dress collecting all information leaflets from different publishers

Entrance to the Arab stand where flags and posters were put up representing the art of each Arab country. The stand attracted many Arab and German visitors

A German woman wanting to know something about the Arab world in audiovisual form. The Alexandria Library arranged a section containing a computer storing basic information in Arabic, English and German about each Arab country

Israel launched a reckless campaign against choosing the Arabs as guest of konour at the Frankfurt Fair and wanted to stage a huge demonstration, but only a few people, as pictured above, took part

A copy of an illustrated statement distributed by Israel

Folk art, including dancing, was present as well. The Tunisian Folk Dance Troupe performing on stage inside the Fair

Arab and Gulf traditional crafts occupied a place in the Fair too

The Frankfurt Fair is open to the public on its final days only; the other days are reserved for publishers who exchange copyright agreements in millions of euros

Foreign book sections turned into small cultural cafe's where publishers and authors discussed and talked about their latest publications. Pictured above is the section of Penguin, one of the most famous international publishers

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