The Egyptian capital is notorious for its traffic congestion that gets worse every year. Millions of Egyptians spend long hours every day groaning and wailing while they are stuck in the gridlocks. Everyone blames the government on it, but no one thought of utilizing it.
Alef bookstores in Egypt have started a new project of putting books in taxis in October, called “The taxi of knowledge”. The goal of the project is to urge Egyptians to read by utilizing the time they spend stuck in the traffic jam.
This is a step to expand the effect of reading books to ordinary people other than the potential readers who go to bookstores. This is because Egyptians generally do not read; do not like to spend their time or money on books, since they see it as a waste. So, if there is an opportunity to read an interesting book instead of staring blankly out the taxi’s windshield, without spending a penny, why not?
The project started with 50 cabs in Cairo, with three books in each, aiming to reach five thousand riders. It has taken Alef bookstores’ administration four months to select the convenient taxi drivers. The fact that many Egyptian taxi drivers are highly educated has helped pick the suitable drivers.
Alef did not provide the books itself, it just took the initiative and some publishing houses and famous authors welcomed the idea and offered their books. The books were carefully chosen to be light and consisting of short separate topics (sarcastic, short stories, short poems) in order to suite the place and the relatively short duration of holding the book.
Towards a Cultured Society
Alef, opened its first branch in July 2009, does not work as a mere bookstores selling books, but it takes the responsibility of being a cultural beacon.
It has a noble mission to create a highly knowledgeable, intellectual, and well-read community in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and to provide its customers with the widest collection of books. Alef always seeks advice from a team of experts who are passionate about books.
The one-and-a-half year old chain of bookstores works on enriching the cultural movement by arranging cultural events like book signings, seminars and intellectual discussions with famous figures in different fields, poetry reading nights and special cultural activities for children.
Moreover, the different branches deliver workshops in different fields like journalism, photographing, painting, calligraphy, fashion design and others. The activities are all conducted by professionals.
Beside its three branches in Cairo, Alef has opened three other branches in the north coast; a place where high-class Egyptians go in the summer to relax and have fun. Amid the private beaches, fancy restaurants and cafes, you will find the Alef branches.
Alef also provides the service of online shopping through its website with shipment reaching its customers inside and outside Cairo.
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Reviving the Days of Civilization
The decoration of all the branches is Andalusian that makes you feel like you have travelled back in time to the age of age Islamic civilization.
Once you enter the main branch, you will find the front wall written on it the philosophy of the bookstore:
“We, Alef, acknowledge that all the great sciences and philosophies of the world were brought to light in the days of the Andalous by brilliant Arab minds. We seek to instill the light and thrive knowledge and learning that once upon a time made great Arab thinkers the pillars of modern civilization in each and every individual who walks through our doors. We hope to keep the torch of advancement alight and pass it from one individual, generation, civilization to another. We thrive to bring you a realm and diversity of books, resources and technology that will help you make your contribution to humanity”.
By: Yomna El-Saeed — Freelance Writer- Egypt