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Cairo book fair canceled due to demonstrations in Egypt

February 1, 2011 |  8:13 am

Demonstrations in Egypt have led to the de facto cancellation of the 43rd annual Cairo International Book Fair, which was scheduled to begin last Saturday and run through Feb. 8. The Cairo International Book Fair is the oldest in the Arab world and also the largest, with an estimated 2 million attendees.

With internet connections all but shut down, the fair has not posted any official notice of its cancellation on its website, but guest of honor China -- a delegation of 248 publishers and more than 10,000 books -- left last week, before the fair began. Despite a notice in the state-run newspaper that the book fair would go on as usual, The Guardian reports that Saturday's opening did not go on as planned -- it is traditionally led with a welcome by President Hosni Mubarak.

While many international book fairs cater to the local publishing industry and booksellers, Cairo's sells directly to readers. Publishing Perspectives reports that in all, more than 600 publishers will be affected; if the fair is not rescheduled, they expect a significant loss of sales.

There had been some concern this year that the fair had been moved from the city proper to a suburban site. That move, however, may actually benefit publishers -- while hundreds of thousands of demonstrators march in Cairo, boxes of books sent to the fair are waiting in the quiet Nasr City Fair Ground, away from the crowds.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Demonstrators in Cairo on Tuesday. Credit: Emilio Morenatti / Associated Press