Book readership has declined in recent years in Egypt. It seems that not everyone enjoys the book shopping adventure, looking for a book among piles and piles of dusty books and coughing his way through finding what he is looking for. Not so long ago in Egypt it was very hard to find recently published books, you would absolutely have to order them from internet websites or have a friend send them to you. Readership declined but, for some reason, no-one blamed the bookstores even though they are the main suppliers of books. And then, Al Diwan was established.
Al Diwan bookstore like many other successful and creative projects started with a dream and a vision. Three friends recognized the gap in the market and decided to fill it; Dr. Ziad Bahaa El Din, Hend and Nadia Wassef who are the authors of the book "Girls of the Nile", and Dr. Nehal Shawky professor of English literature in the American University in Cairo.
In 2002 Al Diwan bookstore opened its doors in it’s unique location in "Zamalek", one of the best districts in Cairo, surrounded by many embassies and cultural centres.
From the start Al Diwan was different from other bookstores in almost every way. Even glimpsed from outside it can easily be mistaken for an art gallery and not necessarily a book shop. The store is very elegant; it's obvious from the very first moment anyone sets foot in the place that it has a European style and an authentic feel.
The visitors to the book store will find the books organized in different sections in an immaculate way. They have the chance to sit down and go through the books they want and even have some coffee. They will find all the assistance they need and more from the people who work there who are very knowledgeable of their stock of books.
The book shop has both English and Arabic books in all the different genres; politics, religion, literature, self help and even cookery books are all there. There are also different musical C.D.s and stationery for sale. Many of the visitors to Diwan are foreigners. Either they go to buy the English books or the translated Arabic ones, have coffee and look around to check the latest books.
One of the very distinctive things about Diwan is the interaction between the bookstore and it visitors which breeds a sense of loyalty in them. For instance Diwan provides a lot of services for its visitors, among them the Diwan loyalty card and the delivery service; they can actually deliver the book of your choice to your door step. One more thing Diwan has become very famous for are the book signing events, which bring authors, both young and old, famous or beginners, together with the media and success. All of this and more has changed the book lover’s idea of book shopping from a hectic adventure to an enjoyable, luxurious and comfortable experience.
Different branches of Diwan have been opening across Cairo in recent years with future plans of others throughout Egypt and maybe abroad. Starting a project like Diwan was a risk by all measures; investing in a bookstore in Egypt while the readership of books is declining so fast may have been thought of as an idealistic crazy idea. But the founders of Diwan believed in it and eventually they made everyone else believe in it too. Now the model of Al Diwan is being followed with new book stores opening across Cairo with more or less the same concept proving that it was an inspirational idea to begin with.
Nonetheless, Diwan and other bookstores that fall into the same category, cater to a certain social class. Leaving behind the middle class and other readers who may not be able to afford Diwan's prices, which are relatively not cheap, especially in a country like Egypt with a low average income.