Egyptian readers have a great passion for reading Chinese books, especially cultural and literary books, said Ahmad al-Saeed, Chief of Cairo based Chinese “Wisdom House for Cultural Industries” Institution.
Al-Saeed, whose institution is currently participating in Egypt’s 51st Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) with four pavilions, said the exhibition areas have witnessed a huge turnout as more Egyptians are willing to learn more about China.
The two-week CIBF was opened on January 22, which is considered the largest and oldest book fair in the Middle East, featuring 808 pavilions and 900 publishing houses.
“We are displaying around 600 titles in our pavilions. We have 300 titles that are translated from Chinese into English,” Al-Saeed told. “We have political, religious, cultural, economic, history, literature, geography and general knowledge books.”
He pointed out that there are some 200 titles of educational books and about 100 books for children are also on display.
Each year, Al-Saeed said, Wisdom House displays book only, but “this year, we also have a full curriculum for learning the Chinese language.”
He noted that the main goal of being part of the CIBF is to remove any cultural barriers between the Egyptian and Chinese Civilisations and Cultures, adding that participation at the book fair is a big gain for his institution.
“We are also selling handmade Chinese cultural traditional items in addition to accessories for the Spring Festival celebration,” the Wisdom House chief revealed, noting that one of the pavilions is taking the shape of a Buddhist temple.
Since the first participation in 2013 until 2018, most visitors came only to have a look at the pavilions, according to al-Saeed, visitors have started to purchase books as of 2019.
“This year, some people have started asking about specific books. Many readers know a large number of Chinese writers, and their works,” he stressed.
According to Al-Saeed, most visitors are interested in books that tackle China’s relations with the Middle East and Arab Region, and readers want to know what China intends to do in cooperation with Egypt regarding the Belt & Road Initiative.
For al-Saeed, the biggest challenge is continuity. He said that his institution is so far able to overcome this challenge.
“We have been providing books that discuss new topics which differ from what was presented in previous years,” he said.
In addition to its efforts to introduce the Chinese culture to Egypt, Wisdom House is also working to export Egyptian culture to China
“Now, we have a place in the Beijing International Cultural Trade Service Center where we seek to establish an integrated Egyptian exhibition to show cultural products,” Al-Saeed said, affirming that the goal behind this is to create a strong bridge between the peoples of the two nations.
Since its establishment in 2011, Wisdom House, which operates in both Egypt and China, has been focusing on publishing China-related cultural and literary books in Arabic to enhance China-Arab cultural exchange.
Egyptian-Chinese bilateral ties have been elevated to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership with growing economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries in the light of Chinese Belt & Road Initiative.