Bookseller launches campaign to build a new home for Arabic books and culture in London

Bookseller launches campaign to build a new home for Arabic books and culture in London
Bookseller Mohammed Masoud has launched a campaign to build a new home for Arabic books and culture in London.
2 min read
11 January, 2023
Al Saqi Books, founded by André and Salwa Gaspard along with Mai Ghoussoub, was open for 44 years [source: Getty]

A passionate bookseller on Wednesday launched a campaign to create a new literary space for Arabic books and culture in London for the next generation of readers. 

Mohammad Masoud, who has worked in several bookshops in South West Asia and North Africa, told The New Arab that he wants to build a community hub named "Maqam", where everyone is invited to celebrate and learn about the extensive canon of Arabic literature

He has contacted a number of publishing houses and many independent shops with the aim of supporting Arabic booksellers in the SWANA region. Masoud said many have agreed to present their books on his website. He also plans on selling his collection and other people's rare books. 

He created a JustGiving page to help raise the necessary funds to see his literary dream become a reality with the goal of acquiring £90,000 to run Maqam for its first year. 

"It was a sad moment when Al Saqi closed their doors," Masoud told The New Arab.  The bookseller had worked for the shop since it re-opened in 2021 after the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"But perhaps I was destined to do that. [This is a] new generation, new blood taking over the scene," he added. 

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Masoud, who didn’t sleep for days approaching the project launch, said his plans were "challenging" but he was inspired to make something new to carry on this love of literature and Arabic culture.

The young bookseller is joined by "Abdulisms", Maqam's creative director, as well as contributors Heba Al-Hayek, Ghaith Hilal, Asia Khatun and Redwan (calligraffenomenal). 

He envisions a space where people can sit, drink coffee, and read as well as a forum for various events such as Arabic classes, calligraphy, and storytelling sessions. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Masoud (@moemasoud1)

The hope is to combine JustGiving donations, which totalled around £300 by the end of the first week, with grants and money raised from public events. 

"I want this to be a safe space for all," Masoud said. 

"To show our culture, who we are. To show the true face of the Middle East, of SWANA culture and its people."

This article has been amended with additional details and context

 
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