PHOTOS: Floating book fair wins praise from Qatar residents

The Logos Hope floating book fair, which docked in Doha on Thursday, is garnering much praise among residents, who say they are happy to be getting a healthy dose of literature in a country where a reading culture is still developing.

The book fair, funded by a German Christian charity organization, attracted some 40,000 people during its last visit to Qatar in February 2011, and this year has some 5,000 titles aboard, almost all affordably priced.

Speaking to Doha News, Bernadette Rautenbach, a South African teacher at the English Modern School in Doha, said:

“The ship is wonderful. There is a great selection of books, both fiction and nonfiction—and children’s books as well.”

She added that crucial to improving the reading culture for the next generation is “matching children with books they’ll love.”

Despite a high literacy rate, educators have pointed to Qatar’s lack of libraries as a reason why more kids here are not interested in reading. Its adult residents also grapple with access to reading material.

Currently, Qatar is home to only a handful of bookstores, including Jarir Bookstore, Virgin Megastores and the recently opened WH Smith at Ezdan Mall.

But Qatar is making headway, with a National Library in the works. There are also various initiatives here to promote reading, such as mobile bookstores and Laysh: to read or not to read. The campaign, which means “why” in Arabic, was launched in April by [email protected] and Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, in hopes of starting a conversation about a subject that not many people give a lot of thought.

The benefits of reading are many, and the pastime has been credited with boosting creativity, fostering empathy and helping educate others about people, places and events outside of their experience.

With that in mind, Logos Hope’s book selection covers everything from cooking, geography and Jane Austen to even religion, with a large section labeled “For Christians only,” carrying Evangelical literature and Bibles.

William Juma Makonge of Kenya said he was pleased to have the opportunity to buy Christian books that are otherwise unavailable in Qatar. He said it is a not a problem for books on Christianity to be sold in Qatar because people in Qatar are of all different nationalities.

Fathima Khan, a Muslim from India, agreed with Makonge, telling Doha News:

“There are Christians here as well. There’s a diversity.”

Logos Hope is docked at the Doha Port, near the Museum of Islamic Art, through Oct. 20. All visitors to the book fair should take a shuttle bus from the parking lot. According to Gulf Times, national ID or a passport is needed for entry into the port.

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