By Dennis Abrams
One of Egypt’s largest bookstore chains, ALEF bookstores, has opened its first shop in London.
Nayera Yasser, writing for Daily News Egypt, reported:
“Chairman Omar El-Shenety, the godfather and main sponsor of the entity and its vision, Moustafa El-Shenety, the managing and strategic director, and Ahmed Rahmy, general manager at ALEF Bookstores, began their journey with an essential vision. Today they are celebrating not only their local success but also international expansion.”
El-Shenety told the Daily News:
“The three of us dreamt of a global Arab bookstore chain that can help shape a better generation in our region with real access to books and knowledge and also give a better image about our region. But now it is not just the three of us, there are hundreds who share this dream with us whether employees, franchisees, clients or fan.”
With the goal of building a “cultural spot that would further empower and spread Arabic literature around the globe,” the three spent years researching their options, before choosing London as their first international outpost, for several reasons:
1. The nature of its market, the large amount of opportunity, and the fact that London is the home to one of the largest Arab speaking communities in Europe.
2. And, equally as important, they were surprised to learn that London was devoid of bookstores that offered the same range of Arabic titles.
So their newest store is set to “become an Arab beacon to market and support literature. “Our Arabic section is 35% of the store’s total collection,” said Rahmy. “And we also have a wide range of translated books in order to introduce Arab literature to foreigners.”
At the same time, Yasser writes, the chain, with 30 stores around the country along with “20 points of sale in gas stations” is still doing booming business in Egypt, where it “has been changing the cultural scene for years.”
“We believed that people in Egypt don’t read because they don’t have access to books and we turned out to be right…“People in Egypt won’t drive miles away to buy books but if they have them at their disposal, they will buy them and in time they can become addicted to reading. Our objective was to build a chain,” said Omar.
And as Rahmy pointed out, current levels of reading are “certainly promising:”
“We assumed that the main barrier for not having high readership percentages in Egypt was the supply. Demand has always been solid and proven many times when price/availability barriers were removed,” said Rahmy. “Our assumption was correct and once ALEF made books available in many places and untapped locations such as governorates, readership went far as we can see now.”
“The three of us dreamt of a global Arab bookstore chain that can help shape a better generation in our region with real access to books and knowledge,” founder Omar El-Shenety added.