By: Baheya Zeitoun
The American University in Cairo (AUC) held its second book fair, the ‘Tahrir Book Fair’ at the old campus, from Thursday Mar. 22 to Saturday Mar. 24.
Multiple publishing houses, including the AUC press, displayed their work at the fair. In addition, several local businesses such as souvenir and jewelry makers had the chance to display their products.
Among the people who displayed their products were ‘Sour El Azbakiya’, a venue responsible for the collection of secondhand books and newspapers.
Mahmoud Kassem, the exhibitor at the Sour El Azbakiya booth explains, “we can show people our work. It’s not just a place for old books; we can move our books to any place.” He continues, “we meet different kinds of people, particularly foreigners; we show them our culture.”
Omar Kashef, one of the attendees, commented that the book fair is a great place to find “old historical books and newspapers that we won’t find anywhere else,” as well as an “unusual and unexpected” variety of books.
“We come to AUC because people appreciate our work here,” added Mahmoud Khattab, the exhibitor at the Hossam Abdel Zaher Bookbinding booth.
However, many commented that they were disappointed in the attention the fair garnered, remarking that there was a very low turnout. Many believed that the event was not well promoted neither within AUC, nor outside of it.
The fact that the fair took place over the weekend was also one of the reasons credited to the low turnout. Maha Nassar, a jewelry designer, believes that if the book fair had taken place on a Thursday, people would’ve come immediately after work. This includes AUC staff who works at the old campus.
Another reason for the low turnout is the apparent political instability of the country. The location of the campus is home to many regular demonstrations, which has been made vulnerable, in the past, to many attacks and break-ins.
Angela Hafez, who works for the AUC Press said that “rumors about demonstrations ruined the fair.” The rumors agitated people and made it difficult for many to go anywhere near Downtown Cairo.
Saediya Fares, the exhibitor at the Lanhnert & Landrock booth, agreed.“[There is] good organization [this year], better organization than last year’s book fair; however, the rumors on Friday ruined it.”
“The security closed the gates [on Friday] because they were afraid of people entering,” added Samy Adly, an employee at the AUC Textbook Store
Noha El Badry, ECLT Senior, concluded that on the whole, the “Cairo book fair was better; the book selection here is not good.”