Last week, Syrian publishers helped open the first major Arabic-focused bookshop in Istanbul, a four-floor, multilingual and multigenre space:
The newly opened “Pages” Bookshop is located in the historic Fatih district, close to the Kariye Museum. According to a feature in Publishing Perspectives by Olivia Snaije, more than “2,000 titles will be available in Arabic, Turkish, English, and French in a 210 square-meter space spread over four floors.”
It also boasts a café.
The bookshop is the brainchild of Gulnar Hajo and Samer al-Kadri, founders Bright Fingers children’s publishing house.
Like an estimated 350,000 other Syrian refugees living in Istanbul, Hajo and al-Kadri left Syria with their two daughters, first setting up in Jordan and later moving to Istanbul in 2013. Al-Kadri told Publishing Perspectives that he saw the need to establish a bookshop where books in Arabic were readily available. He told PP that “Pages” will also function as a cultural center and gallery space, hosting events and screening films.
Photos from opening night, from the Pages Facebook page:
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What a lovely, airy space and what a lifeline for those who’ve found themselves in Istanbul. When English is your mother tongue, it’s rarely impossible to find a worn-out English paperback left behind by another traveller, an English language newspaper or a whole English bookshop, no matter where you go. We forget how lucky we are to be to meet the familiarity and warmth of our own language, embodying our own culture and memories, far from home. (And we travel by choice, of course)
I hope that Pages provides a meeting place for families, and a restorative haven of Arabic alive and well inside the covers of books. Books feed the soul.
Best wishes – to you and to Gulnar Hajo and Samer al-Kadri
Thank you! And if you’re ever in Istanbul, I’m sure Gulnar & Samer would love to see you there.
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As a fellow bookseller, here in San Francisco, it brings me great joy to see this new bookshop emerge! It does indeed look airy and filled with light on those upper floors. One can almost feel the hope, solace, and possible futures that good books/bookshops bring us.
Even at this distance, I can smell the wonderful aroma of books and wooden bookshelves!
May they thrive and prosper, may Gulnar Hajo and Samer al-Kadri also experience some of the quiet and peace that they are giving to others.
This is an old and honorable profession, I welcome them to our shared street of dreams and memory!
Beau, I will make sure Gulnar & Samer see your wishes, and please do visit them if you ever happen to be in Istanbul. You would not be able to help loving them for themselves & for everything they do.
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Arabic Books in Istanbul
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