Al Saqi Books: Renowned Middle East bookstore closing doors for good in UK

Al Saqi Books: Renowned Middle East bookstore closing doors for good in UK
3 min read
06 December, 2022
Al Saqi Books, located in London, was founded in 1978 by three Lebanese immigrants who wanted to 'recreate the heady intellectual climate of Beirut' that existed before Lebanon's civil war.
Al Saqi Books will shut up shop for good on 31 December after over four decades [Ali Gogazeh/EyeEm/Getty-file photo]

A renowned Middle Eastern bookstore in the UK will close its doors for good at the end of this year.

Al Saqi Books, the largest Middle Eastern specialist bookseller in Europe, will shut up shop permanently on 31 December after over four decades, according to an email sent on Monday by its publishing arm. 

The shop, located in London, was founded in 1978 by three friends who had moved to the UK from Lebanon.

André and Salwa Gaspard and Mai Ghoussoub, who has since passed away, wished to "recreate the heady intellectual climate of Beirut" that existed before Lebanon descended into civil war.

Bookshop director Salwa Gaspard said: "Our customers' support and friendship over the years has meant the world to us.

"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.

"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."

Al Saqi's email announcing the closure described the shop as a "leading light not only for Middle Eastern expatriates, but for visitors from across the region keen to obtain works banned in their own countries, and for local readers looking for the best-curated knowledge of the region they could find".

Twitter users were disappointed by the news.

Nasri Atallah, editor-in-chief at men's magazine Esquire Middle East, said: "This is incredibly sad. A mainstay of my whole existence in London – and of my father before me."

"You will definitely be missed. Thank you for giving us a home away from home," wrote Ouissal Harize, an editor at fact-checking site Misbar.

Despite the bookshop's closure, the associated Saqi Books and Dar al Saqi publishing houses will remain operational from a new West London office.

"Al Saqi Books stood for freedom of thought and expression, cultural diversity, exchange of views and empathy with all peoples," the closure email said.

"These values were infused into Saqi Books and its imprints, and we honour our origins even as we close the glass door behind us one last time."

Al Saqi Books is running a closing sale this month. The store's address is 26 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 5RH.