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London Arabic bookshop set to close after nearly 45 years in business

Al Saqi bookshop co-founder Salwa Gaspard speaking to a customer.
Al Saqi bookshop co-founder Salwa Gaspard speaking to a customer. Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Euronews with AP
Published on Updated
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The Middle Eastern specialist bookshop stands for freedom of thought and expression as well as cultural diversity.

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A Middle Eastern specialist bookshop is set to close its doors at the end of the year, 44 years since it first opened in Westbourne Grove, London

Al Saqi Books says it stands for freedom of thought and expression, as well as cultural diversity.

But after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the energy crisis, Salwa Gaspard, co-founder Al Saqi Books, says she has to shut it.

It was like family, because as Lebanese, fleeing Lebanon, you know, we had no family in London and this was our family.
Salwa Gaspard
Co-founder Al Saqi Books

"It was like family, because as Lebanese, fleeing Lebanon, you know, we had no family in London and this was our family. All the employees were like family, so many of the customers became like family. It was like a home from home, you know, so, we're losing all this now," says Salwa.

The Arab language book shop's name means 'water seller' and customers say the store is a well-known landmark in the area and are shocked to see it go.

Most of the books I can't even find back home
Farah Otozbeer
LSE student

Farah Otozbeer is a LSE student and says she's sorry to see the shop close. 

"Here I find more books written by people from the Middle East and the Global South in general because there's obviously more openness with the press here. So this is also like what makes this bookstore special, most of the books I can't even find back home," explains Farah.

Joseph Devine has worked at Al Saqi for nearly two years and he says the situation is very sad.

"It's a tragedy really, we've had lots of customers coming into the shop who've been buying books here since the 70s, I guess everyone thought that our Al Saqi would just always be here," Joseph says. "It's such a sort of landmark in this area. So everyone's been devastated and shocked really."

However, the award-winning independent publishing house Saqi Books will continue.

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