Visitors to the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) began queuing up to watch Egyptian stand-up comedian Bassem Yousef almost two hours in advance. Age, language and nationality was no bar as people from around the world lined up to see the man live.
The heart surgeon-turned-comedian hosted a live panel session along with Arab interviewer Anas Bukhash where he addressed several topics including his recent viral interview with Piers Morgan, the inspiration for his book The Magical Reality of Nadia and how he spent months without work after moving to Los Angeles.
Some visitors came with children as young as six months while others came with their parents and friends. Several members of the audience used a live-translation headset to hear the session that was held in Arabic. Some chose to drape the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf around themselves.
Walking into the hall dressed in a crisp white blazer and jeans, Youssef was greeted with loud cheers and applause, as audience stood on their chairs to get a glimpse of him. For many, it was a dream-come-true moment to watch him live.
Egyptian teenager Noora arrived to watch her favorite comedian with her friend and her family. “I have been a huge fan of Bassem Youssef for a long time,” she said. “I believe that he came at a time when Egyptians needed a voice like his. His political satire has made him probably the biggest celebrity in Egypt.”
Noora said that she had reached the Sharjah Expo Center at 4.30pm and had begun queuing up at 6.30pm. “When I got into the queue, it was long but then it got longer,” she said. “I waited almost 45 minutes to get in and get a seat.”
Indian expat Nada Ahmed came to watch the discussion along with her younger brother, whom she bribed with time on her phone. “I used a headset to understand what he was saying,” she said. “I was a little disappointed that he didn’t speak more about Palestine, but I understand that this is a book fair, and he came to promote his book. I am happy I got to see him.”
After the session, Youssef had a book signing session for his audience. His book, ‘The Magical Reality of Nadia’ tells the story of a sixth-grade Egyptian migrant student Nadia who deals with high school drama in her school in America. He revealed that he developed the idea for the book based on the experiences of his daughter.