In the First World west we take for granted luxuries like book cafes. Elsewhere the concept is not so familiar.

Last September the town of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, got its first book café.
That’s noteworthy in itself. More noteworthy still, in a patriarchal society like Iraqi Kurdistan, is that the movers behind the new book café are female, led by owner Rafan al-Ta′i
.But most noteworthy of all is the café itself. Take a moment to study this photo from Germany’s Qantara.

Image via

Each piece of furniture, each bookshelf, each decoration was meticulously selected and designed, giving the place its distinctive aesthetic. Visitors finds themselves surrounded by books as they sip on coffee or a snack; shelf upon shelf chock-full of books, a wall clock with numbers shaped like books and even a telephone and curtains in the shape of books.

It’s a reminder of the universal appeal of books and literature, and a reminder to publishers and authors focused on the easy-access western markets that, elsewhere in the world, demand for books far exceeds supply.
This post is one of four today on the Arab Renaissance.

Arab Renaissance 2: Eager readers buy books by the suitcase at the Cairo International Book Fair

Arab Renaissance 3: Baghdad’s Al Mutanabbi Book Street thrives again

Arab Renaissance 4: Saudi Arabia’s first Arts Book Fair is underway as Casablanca IBF opens and Cairo IBF closes. Publishers look the other way