Set among the grounds of celebrated Egyptian film director Ali Badrkhan’s home in Haram is Badrkhan Bookstore, a new addition to Cairo’s cultural venues.
Distinctive in its location outside the usual artistic environs of downtown and Zamalek, the place is also an outsider in the attitude of its founders, not just being another conveyor belt of events and talk.
Opened in April, the center is the fruit of Badrkhan and writer Ehab Abdel-Hamid’s desire to create a cultural center that fits among those already present.
The place’s immediate niche value is as a focus for this country’s cinematic tradition, encompassing academic study as well as the films themselves.
Relating the origins of the idea, Badrkhan explained to Daily News Egypt that him and Abdel-Hamid “were thinking originally of making a cultural organization concerned with the cinematic heritage of Egypt…a complete library for those concerned with cinema, especially as we are next to the film institute
“And then we thought, why be limited to cinema? Let us include literature, painting, music. Someone has extra books, our friends; they give them to us for the library. Hussein Abdel-Gawad (the artist) has eight boxes which we don’t know how to move from the top of the street to here, he said.
From these beginnings as a library and bookshop, this week the center hosted its first film screening program as part of the plan to branch out into exhibiting and then nourishing young Egyptian artists in all fields through workshops. Again, friends of the founders have been invited to take part, this time sharing their knowledge and expertise instead of books.
The seed for using his home as a place to foster the young was sown in 1989, when visitors from Sweden and Denmark encouraged Badrkhan to open his doors to others. With their assistance he set up the NGO Al-Nosour Al-Sagheera (Young Eagles).
The guiding principle of the organization was to create the mindsets needed for democracy to take root in Egypt by encouraging independent thinking and responsible behavior among the children attending a nursery and the social activities running alongside it
The keen interest in youth which led Badrkhan to put his energies into Al-Nosour remains just as strong in his current project. Describing modern education as primarily concerned with the business side, he feels compelled to provide students with an education and training dependent not on how much they can pay, but his and the instructors’ responsibility as educators.
Currently the board members are seeking investment from the Ministry of Culture, but until any outside investment comes, the place covers its own costs through the bookshop. The first workshops should start to take place after Eid Al-Fitr, by which time it is hoped that all the equipment will be in place. Once the classes start, the screenings should become more regular as the well of worthwhile work fills up.
Badrkhan Bookstore, 7 Studio Al-Ahram St., Giza.