My second day in Sharjah included only a little book fair activity. After breakfast I headed over to the expo center to wander around and hopefully connect with some local poets for an article I’m planning. It turned out that Sunday morning (weekends in UAE are Friday and Saturday) was for school children. The parking lot was crowded with school buses, and the fair halls were thronged with kids. Most of the kids were in uniforms or traditional Arab clothing (I haven’t yet sorted out which outfits mean what—but that’s on my list of things to learn).
While at home it’s rare to see many children at a book store (maybe because we shop at Amazon), here thousands of kids tore through the book fair like hurricanes, paging through books, scattering them over tables, waving them at booksellers asking for prices, and spilling a little ice cream or drinks on the floor. I was chatting with an Indian bookseller in his booth when a group of kids charged in. “I have no books for children,” he said as he shuffled them off and back down the hall.
Like kids everywhere, they seemed to congregate around comic books, animal books, and anything related to super heroes or Disney characters. Many sellers offered illustrated books about Islam, and there were usually groups of kids paging through those.
After leaving the book fair I joined a group of other invited writers (from Pakistan, Germany, India, China, Australia and more) for a desert adventure. We drove about an hour outside of the city where the landscape turned into waving dunes, date trees and small desert bushes. When we arrived at our destination, the drivers let about half the air out of the tires of the 4x4s and took us for a roller coaster drive over the dunes. One of the land rovers got temporarily stuck atop a dune precipice and needed to be pulled off by one of the other trucks.
After dune bashing for a while, all the Land Rovers parked, and our attendants rolled carpets over the sand and set up a tent to serve coffee while we were given a demonstration of Bedouin falconry. It wasn’t too much longer before the sun dropped below the dunes.
A good dinner of shish kebobs and some camel rides later, and we piled into the vehicles for the ride back to the city.