By Olivia Snaije
Following the excitement of Turkey’s elections on Sunday, Istanbul has something else to get excited about: the opening of a new multilingual bookshop with an emphasis on books in Arabic. Pages, (or Safahat in Arabic and Turkish) is located in the Fatih district near the Kariye museum. Over 2,000 titles will be available in Arabic, Turkish, English and French in a 210 square-meter space spread over four floors.
Created by Gulnar Hajo and Samer al-Kadri, founders of the award-winning Syrian children’s book publisher, Bright Fingers, partners include the Turkish children’s book publisher and agent, Zeynep Sevde Paksu.
Hajo and al-Kadri left their native Damascus via Jordan, moving to Istanbul in 2013 where they re-established their company.
With an estimated 350,000 Syrian refugees living in Istanbul and an estimated 1,758,092 refugees over all in Turkey, al-Kadri said he saw the need to establish a bookshop where books in Arabic were readily available. Pages will also have a café and function as a cultural center and gallery space, hosting events, and screening films.
Al-Kadri said that he and Hajo had opened a bookshop in Damascus in 2007 but closed it a year later as it proved too much to handle along with the growing publishing company. “But it gave us experience.”
Books in Arabic will be ordered from Lebanon and shipped to Istanbul.
“It will be international and special,” said al-Khadri. “It will be a space for Syrian people and Arab and Turkish people to connect, a place where they can communicate. There are lots of writers in Turkey; we will hold book signings. It’s not just about sales; it will be a space where people can find each other.”