What Does It Take to Found a Library in Sana’a, Yemen?

The TEDxSana’a Book Club has established a small but vibrant book community in Yemen’s largest city, as reported in the Yemen Times this week. Now they’re looking to expand even more:

1474365_701903429822341_1023287024_nThe club came out of a Facebook discussion of a film, The Life of Pi. The discussion was so vibrant that a few people decided to read the book together as a group and talk about it further.

After that, things snowballed. Co-founder Dr. Mazen al-Hebshi said, in an email conversation, that the group began reading a number of books together, in English and Arabic, and discussing them both on the group’s Facebook page and in small biweekly meetings.

Al-Hebshi said that the group that meets in person fluctuates, and it depends on the popularity of the book — the most recent having been Ahmed Saadawi’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction-winning Frankenstein in Baghdad. The group, which includes men and women of varied ages and backgrounds, has also organized discussions with Yemeni authors, inculding al-Garbi Amran, author of Tholmat Yael (Darkness of Yael), and they “hope to host authors from outside Yemen.”

The group also does “joint readings and discussions with other book clubs,” such as the Insan Group,” al-Hebshi said. And people from other Yemeni cities — such as Aden, Taiz, and Thamar — have attended the Sana’a book group and gone back to develop their own clubs.

Now, al-Hebshi said, they are interested in starting up a library, free and accessible to the public.

Currently in Sana’a, al-Hebshi said, he thinks there are just two public libraries — one attached to Sana’a University, which loans to students, making it not fully public. Another is attached to a cultural centre. “There is supposed to be another public library under construction,” he said, “but it didn’t finish yet.” According to al-Hebshi, it’s been under construction for three years.

They have a space — the TEDxSana’a office space, where book-club meetings and other events are held — and a number of books have been donated, but they still need to design the protocols.

If you’re interested in joining the group or assisting the library project:

The group’s administrators are available on Facebook 

More from Yemen:

Poet Sawsan Al-Areeqe on the Best and Worst of Being a Poet in Yemen and Why You Should Read Ali al-Muqri

You can read several of al-Areeqe’s poems on the IWP website.

Banipal 36: Literature in Yemen Today. Poetry available free online includes work by Yemeni authors Mohammad al-Qaood and Shawqi Shafiq.