On Monday 12 July, nearly three inches of rain fell in just 90 minutes causing flash floods in several areas of West and South London. Al Saqi bookshop’s basement was flooded with 1-metre-high wastewater, damaging our building and hundreds of books. We are a family-run, independent bookshop and publishing house and are already struggling to recover from a difficult year.
Since first opening our doors almost half a century ago, we have survived wars, smashed windows, death threats, the bombing of our warehouse in Beirut during the 2006 war, and censorship of the books we publish. It’s fair to say that we have had our fair share of tough times. But the challenges of the last 18 months have been unprecedented.
We would hugely appreciate any support you are able to give at this time, which will go towards costs not covered by our insurance. Alternatively, the bookshop is still open as the flooding was limited to the basement, so if you are able to come by and buy a book to support us and our authors, that would be even better. We would love to see you.
Al Saqi Bookshop houses the most comprehensive range of books on the Middle East and North Africa in English, and on all subjects in Arabic. It is home to Saqi Books, a leading independent publisher specialising in the Middle East and North Africa. For over three decades, Saqi has offered an independent platform for writers and artists from around the world, releasing cutting-edge, ground-breaking works. We publish the most important thinkers from the region, championing minority voices such as Egypt’s leading feminist Nawal El Saadawi.
At the heart of Saqi's ethos is an understanding of the need for two-way exchanges – western books translated into Arabic, Arabic books translated into English, constant conversations between the Arab region and London, titles which demand that readers from different parts of the globe reconsider their perceptions of their own worlds and also that they look more deeply into received wisdom about other worlds. It is an ethos that has enabled Saqi to build up a list of exceptional writers.
In addition to our unparalleled list of literary luminaries from the Middle East, including the only Nobel Laureate for Literature who wrote in Arabic, Naguib Mahfouz, Saqi publishes acclaimed international writers such as Argentine-born Alberto Manguel, Aamer Hussein from Pakistan and Croatian novelist Dubravka Ugresic. Saqi keeps thousands of copies of its titles in stock in the basement. Some of the damaged titles are the last of their print run. In the case of hardbacks, and art books, the cost of reprinting these titles is prohibitively high.
In 1978, lifelong friends André Gaspard and Mai Ghoussoub resettled in London as a result of the Lebanese civil war and founded the Al Saqi bookshop. They yearned to recreate something of the heady intellectual freedom of pre-war Beirut, and to supply a then-untapped market for English and Arabic books on the Middle East and North Africa. The bookshop became a leading light of multicultural London during the 1980s, known for procuring books banned across the Arab world. Today, Al Saqi Books remains a treasure trove for readers from all walks of life.
André and Mai began publishing English-language works as Saqi Books in 1983. Five years later, a sister company Dar al Saqi was founded in Beirut to release in Arabic seminal titles of philosophy, Western thought and social theory, as well as original works of fiction by leading Arab authors who were often unable to get published in their own countries.
Over the past thirty years, Saqi has become a byword for the development and promotion of Middle Eastern culture, through releasing innovative and seminal works about the region and beyond. Our efforts to bring censored works and authors into the light are an important contribution to keeping the range of Middle Eastern writing diverse, alive and provocative. The inclusion of minority authors among our lists helps, we hope, to demolish cultural barriers that might otherwise reinforce political or geographic ones.
What other people say about Saqi
‘Anyone interested in Arab culture is aware of the invaluable role Saqi plays in making available pioneering, specialist and often controversial books that large publishers refuse to go near.’ The Times
‘Literary fiction in Britain owes a disproportionate debt to the editorial audacity of outfits such as Saqi.’ Independent
‘A list of exceptional writers.’ The Guardian
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