Cultural Leadership: Sharjah’s award-winning journey

CultureSharjah City

Book enthusiast Ramsha Ahmed (@thebooknookae) chronicles the history of this unique award, from its inception to the internationally acclaimed – and vital global literary platform – it is today, as well as Sharjah’s 2019 achievment.

For many years Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) has been building its literature credentials with several recognition worthy events and initiatives. Exceptional International book fairs, festivals for poetry, cultural events and art combined with great appreciation and participation from its population, meant it came as no surprise when Sharjah was crowned the World Book Capital of 2019 by UNESCO. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Book Capital initiative was introduced in 1996 and since has striven to appreciate and encourage publishing activities internationally. The organization awards a one-year stewardship to the city with outstanding publishing and promotional book activities every year.

In 2019 Sharjah was the chosen star for this honour due to its continuous efforts towards literacy and cultural leadership. The title has allowed Sharjah to be more prominent internationally in terms of knowledge, wisdom and culture. People all over the world are interested in exploring the Emirates’ heritage and ancestral roots with a desire to enhance ideas and inspire understanding. Upon accepting the award, the ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi said,

"I cannot fully express my happiness to be present here, as we offer a grand welcome to Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 celebrations."

The opportunity has opened an enormous world of possibilities for the emirate. In light of which Sharjah has since embarked on a celebratory year with a huge range of exciting activities and opportunities centering around the realm of books. Sharjah aims to set an impressive benchmark with the torch in its hand this year for future World Book Capital cities. Their main goals are- Unifying Communities, Fostering Knowledge, Honoring Heritage, Empowering Children and Youth, Raising Awareness & lastly, Developing Publishing Houses. One of the major projects planned for the year and something that everyone is eagerly looking forward to is the ‘House of Wisdom’ designed by British Architectural firm Foster & Partner- a library comprising of 105,000+ books in an elegant two-storey building that will facilitate various activities and a variety of events for the literary public.

Over the years Sharjah has not hesitated to express its love and appreciation for literacy and culture and has many times been recognized as a cultural icon with awards and titles such as Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO in 1998 and Capital of Islamic Culture by the Organization of Islamic Countries Conference in 2014. This new award in a city so prestigious and multi-award winning shows that the emirate still strives to be the finest. Sharjah has always leaned towards showcasing literacy in the most exceptional manner possible. Events are lined up for months to come for a year of exciting calligraphy exhibitions, ambitious writers and poetry sittings, publishers’ workshops, a photography competition and much more. The emirate and its people celebrate their cultural legacy with great affection, pride and gratitude.

Ramsha Ahmed