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The London Arab bookshop will close after nearly 45 years in business

origin 1Al Saqi Bookstore co-founder Salwa Gaspard speaks to a customer. ©AFP

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

Books by Al Saqi he says it represents 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 of Al Saqi Books, says she has to shut it down.

It was like family, because as Lebanese people, fleeing Lebanon, you know, we didn’t have family in London and this was our family.

“It was like family, because as Lebanese people, fleeing Lebanon, you know, we didn’t have family in London and this was our family. All the employees were like family, so many customers became like family. home from home, you know, so, we’re losing all of that now,” says Salwa.

The bookshop’s name is Arabic for ‘water seller’ and customers say the shop is a well-known landmark in the area and are shocked to see it go.

Most of the books I can’t even find at home

Farah Otozbeer is a student at the LSE and says she is sad 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 is obviously more openness with the press here. So that’s also what makes this bookstore special, most of the books I can’t even find at home,” explains Farah.

Joseph Devine has been working in Al Saqi for almost two years and says the situation is very sad.

“It’s really a tragedy, we’ve had many customers come into the shop and buy books here since the 1970s, I guess they all thought our Al Saqi would always be here,” says Joseph. “It’s sort of a landmark in this area. So everyone was really devastated and shocked.”

However, the award-winning independent publisher Sachi Books Will continue.