Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrated the start of its year as UNESCO World Book Capital last night (23rd April) with a spectacular theatrical sequel to One Thousand and One Nights held in the city’s open-air Al Majaz amphitheatre.
Performed in Arabic, the show, entitled ‘1001 Nights: the Last Chapter’, is a mixture of ballet and circus, involving actors, dancers, acrobats, aerialists, a 51-piece symphony orchestra, a ship wreck, two trampolines and even a live horse. It is produced by event specialists Multiple International, based in Beirut, Lebanon, in partnership with Montreal’s dance and circus collective 7 Fingers and Sydney’s Artists in Motion which adapted Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon for the stage in 2012. Some of the cast have performed with Cirque du Soleil.
Among the audience were Jacks Thomas, director of the London Book Fair; Emma House, deputy c.e.o. of the Publishers Association; Juergen Boos, president of the Frankfurt Book Fair; Hugo Setzer, president of the International Publishers Association (IPA); Jose Borghino, secretary general of the IPA; Glòria Pérez- Salmeron, president of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions; Samuel Kolawole, chairman of the African Publishers Network in Accra, Ghana; Ernesto Ottone, assistant director general for culture, UNESCO; and Maszlee bin Malik, minister of education, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur takes over from Sharjah as World Book Capital in 2020).
Before the show, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah and member of the UAE’s Supreme Council, formally accepted the World Book Capital title from Markos Bolaris, deputy minister of foreign affairs, Greece, representing Athens whose year as World Book Capital has now ended. Ottone praised Sharjah for its “understanding and tolerance, its support of intercultural dialogue and its impressive programme of events as World Book Capital”. Among these are mobile beach libraries and a Reading Caravan which will see a Bedouin tent converted into a library in locations across the city.