Tucked away in a side street off Horreya Square in Maadi, the El-Raseef Book Fair creates a cosy and organised environment, where the not so average bibliophile can discover some quality reading material in a treasure trove of second hand books.
The space provided by the Beit El-Raseef community organisation, also offers a café and comfortable furniture, where customers looking for bargains can relax with a coffee, while chatting with patrons about their favourite reading material.
The fair was organised by Beit El-Rassef and four bookstores, when Abdeltawab Ali, the event’s organiser mentioned the idea to Ahmad Hussein, the owner of Kefeyah Library. Hussein became enthusiastic about the idea of a book fair with low prices.
“We give readers the chance to read old books that are not published anywhere to deliver this information from one generation to another,” said Ali.
The fair, which provided an eclectic collection from legal textbooks to graphic novels, from English translations of Naguib Mahfouz to Arabic translations of Alice Munro, along with Elif Shahfek’s “Forty Rules of Love”, Gamal Hemdan ’s 16 volume history of the impact of geography on Egyptian history to self help, inspired plenty of literary debate.
An owner of a used book store in Maadi, who requested anonymity, said his favourite books were classics like Shakespeare, Dickens, and old Russian literature, because they were full of old manners and customs.
“Now modern society escapes from these manners. Some new books are full of bad things. I wonder why people changed in our culture,” he added.
Sarah Khairy, a volunteer at the event, said that modern novels offered people, who were not avid readers, an introduction to literature. Novels like Amed Murad’s “The Blue Elephant” make people who are not readers read, she said.
Hussein explained the patron’s passion.
“Before people were sleeping,” he said, “now they’re awake and so many people started to read after the revolution”.
He cited huge sales of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984” relating to current political themes. He mentioned that alternatives sources of philosophy and history away from mainstream media were becoming more popular after January 2011.
“Ignorant people must be ruled by an ignorant government,” Hussein quoted the book, “while people who are aware must be ruled by a government that respects them.”
Ali was happy most patrons came back more than once and that Egyptians were reading, not just going to football matches or concerts.
Khairy enjoyed her pastime of wandering around books and seeing where her curiosity took her.
“The best things about the book fair is that it feels like home here,” Mohamed Kamel said.
Al-Raseef hosts community workshops and events, such as music workshops or writing marathons. The space also organises concerts and poetry nights, as well as tailoring and craft classes.