Promotion of culture in the Emirate of Sharjah – Culture

The list of records that the United Arab Emirates boast is long: Dubai has the tallest skyscraper and the largest Ferris wheel. The largest chandelier and carpet hang in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in neighboring Abu Dhabi. One could smile at the megalomania, but it is part of a strategy: Because the seven principalities, which have been united to form a state since 1971, invest their raw material income in record hunts, they are perceived internationally far more than their size and location actually allows – economically, touristically and also culturally.

In the latter area, the Emirate of Sharjah is the leader, right next to the glittering facades of Dubai. In Sharjah, people are less proud of gigantic indoor ski halls or shopping malls. But to more than twenty major museums, a book fair that is preparing to surpass the largest industry event in the Arab world in Cairo – and a broad program also in children’s and young adult literature: At the end of March, the small emirate surprised the guests of the international Children’s book fair in Bologna (see SZ 29.3.) with traditional dances, organized discussions and workshops as a guest of honor and presented 17 children’s books from their own country that had been translated into Italian. The fair presentation traveled on to the London Book Fair – and from May 11th the emirate invites you to the 13th edition of the children’s reading festival. For eleven days, local and international authors and artists will perform, read and lead workshops.

However, this cultural support is not to be understood as pure patronage – it is also an investment

The fact that the emirate tries to shine internationally by promoting culture (and at the same time enforces one of the most conservative social systems in the emirates at home) goes back to the head of state, the longest-serving ruler in the Arab world. Sultan bin Muhammed al-Quassimi was Minister of Education until he became Sheikh of Sharjah after his father was murdered in 1972. His interest in culture is shown by the fact that he is the only one among the rulers of the seven emirates who is always mentioned with an academic title, for example in the local press – he wrote two doctoral theses and was subsequently awarded at least 19 honorary doctorates .

However, this cultural support is not to be understood as pure patronage – it is also an investment. Even if business with raw materials is going well, people in the Emirates have understood that the age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. In addition to fairs for children’s, youth and adult literature, the “Shardjah Book Authority” created by the government in 2014 has set up a “Publishing City”, a free trade zone for publishers and book trades, with office and storage rooms and printers, which – quite immodestly – once to become the hub for the book market worldwide. As in other “free zones” in the neighboring emirates, unbureaucratic licensing and tax exemption also attract international companies – and, which is rather rare in the region, freedom also in questions of content, censorship does not take place.

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