Aga Khan Library at the Cairo International Book Fair 2024

Held annually at the Cairo International Exhibition Centre, from January 24th to February 6th, the Cairo International Book Fair stands as one of the largest fairs of its kind. For about two weeks, the Cairo International Book Fair serves as a hub for publishers, book distributors, authors, intellectuals, and book enthusiasts from the Middle East and beyond.

The exhibition draws together hundreds of publishers across the Middle East and North Africa, with book stalls spread across five vast halls. The books in the stalls are beautifully arranged to showcase the vivid and visually appealing covers common to Arabic books, the editions of religious texts in particular, such as the Quran and Tafsirs, exhibit an even more striking design and presentation.

The Cairo International Book Fair is a crucial event for libraries specializing in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies; as such, the Aga Khan Library includes it in its annual acquisitions tour. In 2024, the Aga Khan Library was represented by Mr Shah Hussain, Collection Development Librarian, and Dr Wali Ghali, Head Librarian. Counting on his presence at the Fair, the publishing house Dār al-Shurūq, organised the launch of Dr Ghali’s new book: Mashrūʿ Istiqlāl Miṣr١٨٨٣: Min Awrāq al-Imām Muḥammad ʿAbduh al-Majhūlah; an impressive study on the 19th/20th-century Egyptian thinker and reformer Muḥammad ʿAbdu. Congratulations to Dr Ghali on his new book!

The Cairo Book Fair is a huge event, and one needs to be methodical to avoid being overwhelmed. We adopted a dual approach, combining selections from the lists shared by our partners (Library of Congress Cairo Office and Leila Books) prior to the event with onsite selections. As we went through the stalls, we noticed two noteworthy trends – an increased interest in the Fatimids, the medieval Islamic empire, and the thoughts of the late Professor Mohamad Arkoun, with a number of new titles on both subjects of our interest. We acquired them all for the Aga Khan Library.

Another primary objective for attending the Book Fair was to engage with vendors and partners in the region. This presented an excellent opportunity to revisit existing agreements and establish new collaborations. Of particular significance was the signing of an agreement with Leila Books, our Arabic book vendor, to supply us with shelf-ready books, thereby streamlining our processing activities.

Overall, we had a highly successful book fair, with the acquisition of important titles on Ismaili, Shiʿi, and broader Islamic studies, including books on the Quran, Hadith, literature, arts, and architecture.