Europe’s Largest Lebanese Bookstore Just Shut Down

Al Saqi Bookshop

London-based Lebanese-owned bookstore Al-Saqi Books is set to shut down in the United Kingdom by the end of the year, which was announced through an email. 

Al-Saqi Books is Europe’s largest Middle Eastern bookstore that was founded in 1978 by three Lebanese friends who moved from Lebanon to London.

André and Salwa Gaspard, alongside their late friend Mai Ghoussoub, aimed to replicate the vibrant intellectual atmosphere that existed in Beirut prior to the Lebanese civil war.

“It has been a privilege to bring the best in Arabic writing and intellectual thought to readers eager to explore the Arab world’s rich heritage, and to serve such a warm and generous community,” stated Salwa Gaspard. 

Salwa Gaspard shared that the reason the bookstore was closing is due to current economic difficulties, such as the increased prices of Arabic-language books, which may be due to the UK’s Brexit decision. 

The bookstore established itself as a “leading light” not only for Arabic-reading residents in the UK and Europe but also for Arab tourists looking to buy books that have been banned in their own countries.

Although the bookstore is shutting down, two independent publishing firms, Saqi Books and Dar al Saqi, will continue its legacy. 

The email ended by sharing, “Al Saqi Books stood for freedom of thought and expression, cultural diversity, exchange of views and empathy with all peoples.” 

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