"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 shinning a light on the path of humanity, and leaving us a human legacy that we are proud of, and hold dearly, H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, said as he delivered a speech on Tuesday evening at the Al Majaz Amphitheatre in Sharjah, at the official ceremony to inaugurate Sharjah’s yearlong journey to promote books and culture as the UNESCO World Book Capital 2019.
"It is a great honour to follow in their footsteps. To embrace books and knowledge as a tool to build, not destroy a tool to nurture love, brotherhood and tolerance."
H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, said as he delivered a speech on Tuesday evening at the Al Majaz Amphitheatre in Sharjah, at the official ceremony to inaugurate Sharjah’s yearlong journey to promote books and culture as the UNESCO World Book Capital 2019.
H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of Sharjah Executive Council; H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah and Chairman of Ras Al Khaimah Executive Council; H.H. Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court, and H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline, were present.
The celebrations coincided with World Book Day and Copyright Day marked globally on April 23, and is a befitting recognition of the emirate’s leading cultural accomplishments, particularly in promoting books and reading, at both regional and international levels.
Sheikh Sultan Sharjah highlighted that the emirate’s everlasting relationship with the book has attained a new meaning as it becomes the bearer of this new title, saying, "This title will encourage us to continue supporting initiatives aimed at spreading knowledge and building civilisations, thus making Sharjah cradle of the Arab and Islamic cultural and intellectual renaissance .
"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 received the World Book Capital 2019 title from Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant Director-General of UNESCO; Markos Bolaris, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Greece; and Fiona Andrikopoulou, Communication and Public Relation Advisor - 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.
Taking the stage, 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 Ruler of Sharjah witnessed the world premiere of ‘1001 Nights: The Last Chapter’, the largest of its kind cultural production in the region, produced by Al Majaz Amphitheatre in partnership with ‘Multiple International’, 7 Fingers and Artists in Motion.
The show was enjoyed by a packed audience simultaneously in three languages – Arabic, English and French. A stellar cast of renowned artists and live entertainment specialists brought this epic production inspired by One Thousand and One Nights to a 43-metre wide stage, and featured 537 experts and talented artists from 25 countries, a 51-member live orchestra led by Harout Fazlian, principal conductor of the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, 250 moving lights, 80 surround-sound speakers, 3D technology, and a specially choreographed equestrian sequence.
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 run for one year from April 23, 2019 to April 22, 2020, encompassing a series of cultural events, projects and initiatives.
Winning the World Book Capital title adds to Sharjah’s outstanding record of cultural and humanistic achievements. Sharjah was named the Cultural Capital of the Arab World 1998, the Capital of Islamic Culture 2014 and the Capital of Arab Tourism 2015.
A number of Sheikhs and senior officials also attended the event.