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Egyptian classics find loyal audience at Tunis book market

Karem Yehia in Tunis, Friday 5 Dec 2014
Tunisia
Tunisia's old book market, Sept. 5, 2014 (Photo: Ahram Online)
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Edabbaghin Street in downtown Tunis is home to antiquated shops which sells fabric, sewing supplies and popular sweets. A little further along, a street book market is located, with bookshops and street vendors selling books in Arabic and French.

Egyptian writers and novelists have a prominent place here, in the largest book market in the country. Important Egyptian names like Naguib Mahfouz, Tawfik Al-Hakim, Taha Hussein, Moustafa Mahmoud and many others are widely available.

Books published by well-known Egyptian publishing houses Al-Hilal and Dar al-Maaref are also available, with some items dating back to the 1950s.

One of the bookshop owners, 58-year-old Boghnamy Rabeh, told Ahram Online that the street is almost 50 years old, having been built after Tunisian independence in 1965.

"Over twenty years in the book-selling field, Taha Hussein, Naguib Mahfouz and Jurji Zaydan's books were the bestsellers in my shop," Rabeh said, adding that Tunisian history also sold well.

Rabeh said that most readers now are older people. "Before the revolution, more books were sold than nowadays," he said.

"Also during Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali's era, most opposition books were banned," he said.

Badr Addin Labidi, 66, spoke to Ahram Online while thumbing through a book. "I've been visiting this market since the nineties," he said. According to Labidi, nothing has changed, except for some shops closing.

The customer told Ahram Online that he had obtained a number of Egyptian books from the market, including El-Hilal publications. "I consider them a treasure," Labidi said.

Another bookseller, Ramzy Tahan, told Ahram Online he had been working in the market for twelve years.

The 32-year-old said that he still receives old books from Syria, France and Morocco. "The biggest bestsellers here are the fine arts books that come from France," he said.

According to Tahan, his biggest Egyptian sellers are the works of Naguib Mahfouz and Moustafa Mahmoud.

 

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