Abu Dhabi: The Emirate of Sharjah officially began its reign as the UNESCO World Book Capital (WBC) 2019.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, said, "Today, I cannot fully express my happiness to be present here, as we offer a grand welcome to Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 celebrations. I stand before you and I am almost certain that I am visualising our great forefathers – scientists and thinkers, filling libraries of the world with knowledge, shining a light on the path of humanity, and leaving us a human legacy that we are proud of and hold dearly."
He added, "There is so much more to accomplish. The production of knowledge never stops, and the development of life continues. Rest assured that Sharjah is prepared to continuing on this journey, and God willing, our devoted sons and daughters will continue our march to make Sharjah a true beacon of science and knowledge – a destination for everyone thirsty for culture, for thought and the sciences."
The ruler of Sharjah was officially given the title of World Book Capital by Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant Director-General of UNESCO; Markos Bolaris, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Greece; and Fiona Andrikopoulou, Communication and Public Relation Adviser - Athens WBC 2018, marking the beginning of the official year-long celebrations that will see the emirate organise an elaborate itinerary of book-themed events.
Ottone R. congratulated Sheikh Sultan and the Emirate of Sharjah for developing an impressive World Book Capital programme to celebrate "the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding, dialogue and tolerance".
He added, "Thanks to your relentless efforts, Sharjah was selected by UNESCO and its partners for your unwavering commitment to promoting intercultural dialogue this time through books and reading. Your programme "Open Books – Open Minds" is designed to reach out to marginalised populations, promoting books as a driver of social inclusion, creativity and mutual respect.
"I know that this spirit of inclusion and dialogue will guide all of Sharjah’s activities as World Book Capital. We look forward to working with you all, our publishing industry partners, and the entire international community to celebrate books and the values of creativity, understanding, dialogue and tolerance that they symbolise."
The theme of the celebrations ‘Open Books Open Minds’ highlights the concept of reading and knowledge and their impact on human culture. The celebrations comprise six pillars – 'Unifying Communities', 'Fostering Knowledge', 'Honouring Heritage', 'Empowering Children and Youth', 'Raising Awareness' and 'Developing Publishing Industries'.
The Sharjah World Book capital celebrations, which will include a series of cultural events, run for one year and will conclude on 22 April 2020.