Lebanon: Beirut World Book Capital 2009

Beirut’s status as World Book Capital was officially hailed today in a ceremony held at the UNESCO building. President Sleiman spoke today praising UNESCO for their choice adding that this title is a challenge to improve literacy and encourage reading. The ceremony was attended by Speaker Berri and Prime Minister Siniora.

Beirut is the ninth city designated as World Book Capital, following Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Anterp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007) and Amsterdam (2008).

According to the selection committee, Beirut was selected “in the light of its focus on cultural diversity, dialogue and tolerance, and of its diverse and stimulating program.”

Lebanon boasts of having hundreds of publishing houses.
But Lebanon is also a country where the most sold books, in any book fair that Beirut hosts, are cook and horoscope books.
And Beirut is a city where the coffee shops, that once accommodated intellectuals from around the world, are being transformed into fashion outlets.
And where the environment, politics, economy, intellectualism, arts, etc, has reached a very low level by all standards.
A city where even selecting it as World Book Capital created petty squabbles among the officials regarding the funding (reported by BBC).
Where even the facebook group for this event has only 133 fans (when last checked).

And yes, despite all that, I will take part, plan and share responsibility in some of the activities to commemorate Beirut as World Book Capital.
Never despairing that transformations and imprints can always be made.

Beirut World Book Capital 2009 – Official Site

Beirut World Book Capital 2009 – Blog
Pierre Tristam’s article on UNESCO’s declaration



  1. we’ll all take part in the activities provided that there are actually activities that we can take part of…. Other than a few seconds on the tv news and a small article in the newspaper there was nothing indicating that we are now a World Book Capital… Let them start by making books cheaper so we can actually buy to read.. .or only rich people are supposed to buy books to fill their wall to wall decorative libraries..I hope i didn’t drag on but it’s something i feel so strongly about..

  2. Moussa Bashir · · Reply

    no, you did not drag on. in fact, i wrote this post simply because not much was written about the event on the internet. after searching and searching i found two or three short mentions on a couple of sites. the official website of the beirut world book needs more work, starting with the looks. and so on we can drag on and on. some of the activities that i’ll take part in are those that we will be organizing for our learners :-). anyway, it is a year long event, we’ll see…

  3. Pierre Tristam · · Reply

    Moussa! I’m glad you wrote about this, though I’m surprised you didn’t come across my bit on it from back in December, written at the About site:

    I just checked, it’s not highly ranked in the search engines, I don;t know why. I’ve added your link there.

  4. Moussa Bashir · · Reply

    hello Pierre,
    actually i did find your article and i was about to quote it especially the part about hamra (which i was indirectly talking about when i mentioned the coffee shops). your article was one of few mentioning the selection of Beirut, but there were even fewer articles (when i last checked) about the ceremony to kick off the event in Beirut. this is what i meant. i have just added a link to your about article too 🙂

  5. Steph · · Reply

    Wow this is an honor. This is the 2nd good news this year. Beirut was also selected on top of the New York Time’s list of cities to visit in 2009 🙂


  6. WorriedLebanese · · Reply

    This whole "Beirut World Book Capital 2009" is such a sad business. Almost completely neglected by Tarik Mitri who was too busy playing Foreign Affairs Minister, it was saved by the extremely dynamic team Tamam Salam set up.
    But the whole event is unfortunately a touristic one. De la poudre aux yeux. I wish the Ministry had engaged in some research to look into the difficulties that Publishers, Librarians, Writers and Readers are having in Lebanon… and to find some creative ways to overcome those difficulties.

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