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Al Saqi books closes its doors after four decades, citing rising costs and Brexit

December 7, 2022 at 11:16 am

Image of books [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Al Saqi Books in London is closing after 44 years after a rise in the price of Arabic language books and the economic effects of Brexit have made it impossible for the bookstore to remain open.

Most of the books in the shop are from Lebanon, where Directors Salwa Gaspard and Andre Gaspard are from, but the spiralling economic crisis in the country has made importing books difficult.

“This was a difficult decision that had to be made because of recent economic challenges, such as the sharp increases in Arabic-language book prices,” Salwa said.

“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.”

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The World Bank has said that the economic crisis in Lebanon may be one of the worst in modern times with eight in ten people poor and many not being able to access basic necessities.

People with life savings in banks cannot withdraw them leading to a series of robberies carried out by common citizens to access their cash.

A combination in paper and shipping doubling in cost, the high cost of living in the UK, and a bad exchange rate, have forced Al Saqi to close its doors.

The bookshop was founded by three Lebanese friends who emigrated to London – Mai Ghoussoub, a writer, artist, publisher, and human rights activist, passed away in 2007.

In 1978, when they founded Al Saqi, Lebanon was three years into its civil war.

Al Saqi was designed to “recreate the heady intellectual climate of Beirut,” the directors said, “and for visitors across the region keen to obtain works banned in their own countries.”

Although the largest Middle Eastern specialist bookseller will close on 31 December, its publishing houses Saqi Books and Dar Al-Saqi will continue to operate.

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