|Address:||2 Taha Hussien St. (map)
Click here for info on other Alef branches
Facebook page: ALEF Bookstores
|Bookstore Hours:||9am-11pm, daily|
|Founder:||Ahmed Rahmi & Wael Abdullah|
Taking after its successful predecessor Diwan, Alef Bookstores is another Barnes-and-Noble-style chain of bookstores found throughout Cairo, Alexandria, and some of Egypt’s other governates. The chain was founded in 2009 with the opening of its charter bookstore in Heliopolis, and within the year it opened six more branches. With growth like this, it is clear that the bookstore chain has focused on expansion and reaching new markets, which is perhaps not all that surprising given that the chain was opened by two businessmen, Ahmed Rahmi and Wael Abdullah. In an interview with Egypt Independent in July 2010, Rahmi spoke openly of how reading (and reading the right books) had become fashionable. While Alef has a goal of spreading culture broadly in Egypt, Rahmi is also aware of a new trend among Egyptians with disposable income who like to own books even if they don’t get around to reading all of them. Alef tries to reach this kind of reader, as well, and thus merges business with their cultural mission, offering a kind of “cultural service.”
What you’ll find here:
Alef Bookstores are generally easy to find with large pictures of their logo displayed prominently at street level. A recent visit to the Zamalek branch confirmed what we know about Alef Bookstores: they’re located throughout the city, often in wealthier neighborhoods; they have a wide-ranging selection of books, in both English and Arabic; the stores are comfortable and often have air conditioning and a café; and the books are organized by genre, though with all of the browsing that happens, the organization becomes a bit chaotic within each sub-section. Employees at Alef Bookstores tend to be just that, rather than the book aficionados you find at non-chain bookstores who are making a career out of bookselling and thus can offer recommendations about titles, authors, or other places to track down the book you’re searching for. That being said, with their computer system, employees at Alef can tell you immediately if a specific title or author is available at their branch or at one of the other Alef branches.
If you’re looking for current and popular titles in Arabic, classic works like those by Naguib Mahfouz and Tawfiq al-Hakim, popular English-language titles, or children’s books (in Arabic and English), head to a branch of Alef Bookstores. You can also check their searchable, usually up-to-date, bilingual website before your visit, though we recommend calling to confirm a title is at a specific branch before making your way there in person. Different branches hold book signings and release parties; check the “Events” section of their website for details.
Last updated: August 2014