Thursday, March 5, 2020

Kodak Agfa presents : Egypt's Al-Azbakiya books market in photos and in video

There is no better time to share this than World Books Day.
It was one of my dreams and plans to visit the Cairo famous Al-Azbakiya market , Egypt and the Arab world oldest official second-hand book market.
This is the place where you can find old magazines and newspapers and secondhand books at reasonable prices in Downtown Cairo.
Its history starts officially in 1907 during the time of  Khedive Abbas Helmi II in the most unexpected way ever in the heart of the once upscale Al-Azbakiya district.
You can hear and know its full story from one of its oldest books vendor there Mr. Harbi Hassab.

Mr. Harbi Hassab inherited the job from his father and grandfather. He was kind enough to give some time for quick chitchat.
I know I still got this video shaking thing, I have not mastered yet the use of gimble because it takes a time to install the camera on it and move around quickly in a crowded place alone like Al-Azbakiya in Downtown Cairo.
Nevertheless, I tried my luck with a Go Pro fusion 360 camera but I have not still mastered editing its files.
I know that I have got a problem in sound and I have already added buying a mic to my to-do-list.
Customers in Egypt's Al-Azbakeya market
Visitors at Al-Azbakiya Market in Cairo 

I visited the popular market in January during its annual book fair where I found customers from all ages mostly from the Middle class including students looking for cheap foreign comics and novels.
Inside Egypt's Al-Azbakeya Market
Foreign novels by Dan Brown who is popular in Egypt are sold in the market for cheaper prices 
As you know from the video for the second year in a row, the vendors of Al-Azbakiya market held their annual book fair.
Customers in Egypt's Al-Azbakeya market
The books kiosks and stalls inside the market 
Yes, the first time they organized it in February 2011 but they decided in 2019 to revive it and expand it for a whole month after failing to reach reasonable partition rental prices deal with the administration of Cairo International Book Fair “CIBF” in its new location in new Cairo.
Inside Egypt's Al-Azbakeya Market
Old books and secondhand books about everything are sold for cheaper prices in the market
In early chitchat with Hajj Harbi, he told me that they asked the vendors for LE 1,000 per day for the single partition which was incredibly expensive for the vendors.
In 2020, there were about 40 vendors from the popular market participating in the CIBF.

The success of the Al-Azbakiya book fair in 2019 made the majority of vendors decide to keep the fair as an annual tradition during the Mid-year vacation.
Old books and magazines vendor at Egypt's Al-Azbakeya market
One of the old newspapers and magazines vendors in the market 
Al-Azbakiya book market was a staple part of CIBF attracting millions of visitors with its cheaper prices

I remember going there during High School to CIBF at its old location in Nasr City and heading to its section which was usually bookstalls outside the big tented partitions and buying old issues of Top of the pop magazine for very cheap prices. 

Now in 2020, I bought during my visit an original hardcover cooking book of Nazira Nicola aka “ِAbla Nazira” and Bahia Osman “The Cooking essentials” in Arabic in addition to a couple of old magazines in the 1950s and 1960s.

There are book kiosks and shops specialized in selling very old and rare newspapers and magazines including those that stopped printing from decades ago.
Old Egyptian newspapers and magazines Inside Egypt's Al-Azbakeya Market
The Pictoral World magazine and the legendary Baakoka satirical newspaper, which both stopped publishing
decades ago
I found Hajj Harbi sharing a proudly special collection of 1973 October Yom Kippur war newspapers in Egypt especially Al-Akhbar newspapers.
1973 Yom Kippur war Egyptian newspapers in Egypt's Al-Azbakeya market
1973 October /Yom Kippur war headlines from Egypt 
There is also another collection he shows for the years of the war of attrition.
Aside from the old politics, it strikes me how the magazines had a better structure and easy language then nowadays not to mention I enjoyed finding illustrations by Egyptian greatest illustrators like Hussein Bikar and his amazing work for Akher Saa magazine.

Currently, I was told there were about 110 book vendors in that market located in the buzzing Downtown Cairo surrounded by another bigger street vendors market and the Metro underground expansion project.
Inside Egypt's Al-Azbakeya Market
Customers checking books at the market 
You will know that you have entered Al-Azbakiya book market or that you have left it when the books kiosks finish and the lines of street vendors selling everything and anything from cheap plastic products.
Egyptians passing by Al Azabekya market
The street vendors' stalls start when the book market ends
It is like a popular organized niche market in another chaotic popular market

The Cats of Al-Azbakiya market taking a siesta.
Cats at Egypt's Al-Azbakeya market
In a sunny warm day, the cats rest down in the market 
Nasser, Farouk and Mahfouz at Hajj Harbi’s small bookshop.

Seen At Egypt's Al Azbakeya market
Unexpected trio to find with each other like that in Al-Azbakiya 
The latest when it comes to Al-Abakiya Market is that it is going to be renovated as part of Khedival Cairo under the patronage of Emirates’ Sharjah ruler Sultan Al-Qassami “The older Sultan who also loves Egypt and considers it as a beacon of culture” who is actually a long time customer to the market.

No wonder the photos of Al-Qassami and Sheikh Zayed were hanged all over the place during my visit.
Posters of Egyptian intellectuals Inside Egypt's Al-Azbakeya Market
Posters of Egyptian intellectuals in the market 
I geotagged this post and you see the exact location of Al-Azbakiya secondhand book on Google maps below.

A little tip: Either go in early morning or go on Sunday so most of the shops and street vendors in Al-Attaba square are off.

1 comment:

  1. Great treasures in there, great post and lovely blog, thank you ❤


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