Today I have been learning about Arab female empowerment and seeing the diversity of expression that the individuals here can manifest. It begins with a visit to the American University of Sharjah to hear Fatemeh Fakhraie talking about her experiences of being an American Muslim woman.
She talks about the book I Speak for Myself, which is a collection of 40 essays written by American Muslim women under the age of 40, all of whom were born and raised in the US. Through these personal stories, Fatemeh and her co-authors highlight the diversity found within American Islam.
Now that I’m growing accustomed to things here, I'm starting to see diversity around me in Sharjah. ...
Although, most women are in flowing black, the cuts are different, the trims are different, the headscarfs are different. Once you get used to them, you see the individuality that is being expressed. Coloured flourishes and design notes are allowed. And the handbags! Always a favourite fashion accessory anyway, they take on epic proportions out here. Loud and colourful, they adorn many ladies’ shoulders.
Back at the festival, I’m not surprised to read in the Khaleej Times newspaper that The Sharjah International Book Fair is hosting 750 publishers from 42 nations. If previous averages are anything to go by, when the fair ends on Saturday some 400,000 visitors will have passed through the doors. I thought it was busy here!
A large part of the festival is aimed fostering the lifelong love of reading in children. To that end, there can be no greater symbol of this goal than Kalimat publishing. Founded by Shaikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, one of the Royal Family of this country, the books aim to present the very best of children’s publishing for the children of the Arab world.
Again, there is great diversity of subject matter in the books, from a grandma who likes to make paper aeroplanes, to a group of friends who go on a treasure hunt, to a little boy who breaks wind with such power and noxious force that birds drop from the sky. What can I say? I never expected to see a book about that when I boarded the plane at Heathrow.