I would find myself reading these words over and over again, featuring at one of the most prominent international cultural events in the Indian subcontinent, and each letter, to me represented a milestone in the UAE's journey, especially on the cultural front. Our nation’s cultural journey is deeply rooted in human heritage more than four decades old.
The unique characteristics of the Emirati human heritage attained new meaning when the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, our founding father, established the Union. His wisdom challenged the conventional boundaries of time, and led to the formation of a nation that is as ambitious to lead the future as it is to preserve its exceptional cultural past.
So, it is no coincidence that Sharjah was entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the World Book Capital title this year by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO’s international evaluation standards take into consideration the merits and achievements of a city’s cultural movement. Cities that have been awarded this prestigious title, have all had a history of promoting reading in all its forms to their population, encouraged innovative ways to develop a knowledge-based society, and of course, extended uncompromised support to the books industry.
Sharjah’s long-standing achievements in fostering a culture of reading in the UAE and its ability to lead new initiatives to meet the challenges of literary creation within the nation and beyond, were instrumental to bringing this honour home.
The emirate is now the first city in the Gulf, the third in the Arab region, and 19th globally to receive this award.
Sharjah has successfully built on a strong and distinctive Emirati culture born from its parental Arabic roots. Its unique identity has evolved and flourished over time through our interactions with other cultures, given the UAE is a second home to people representing dozens of cultural backgrounds from around the world.
At a time when borders don’t really exist and importing ideas is easier than creating them, Sharjah and the UAE have stayed true to their national cultural movement by giving utmost importance to authenticity.
Herein lies the importance of the cultural vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. His quest to nurture and support an Emirati society that reads as a matter of daily habit, and has great interest in preserving the Arab history has led to people assuming such roles to further the nation’s cultural journey.
Individuals who understand their own roots are more capable of relating to and accepting other cultures. Only through a path of knowledge and understanding can we build bridges between cultures and people, and pave the way for a bright and peaceful future.
The cultural project of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi began 40 years ago has a clear emphasis on safeguarding national identity and boosting our local culture. It aligns with the UAE Centennial Plan 2071, as evidenced by the achievements and awards picked up by Sharjah on its journey to support the economic and scientific strides our nation, which are looked-up to globally.
Sharjah, as the New Delhi World Book Fair’s guest of honour, was a symbol of pride for the whole nation. It is an affirmation of the world’s recognition of all of our cultural efforts be it in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, or Umm Al Quwain. It is a recognition of every Emirati, who is proud of their heritage, their identity, and is filled with respect for other cultures.
Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 title is the Emirates’ model of cultural success for the world. It is the cumulation of countless initiatives and projects envisioned and launched by His Highness The Ruler of Sharjah to address today’s challenges and those we foresee in the future. These efforts are the very essence of nation-building in the UAE - established on the basis of knowledge, culture and dialogue.