Marcia Lynx Qualey
Last updated: 2 June, 2014

A fight is raging in Tripoli…to restore people’s need for books.

The initiator of "Alkindy" wants to create a cultural social space focused on promoting reading for the Tripolitan youth. Through a new crowdfunding campaign, she is well on her way.

The books and readers of Lebanon’s Tripoli saw difficult times this winter, with the burning of the historic Al-Sa’eh bookshop, among other acts of violence. But the city came to the aid of its biggest bookshop, and now Najwa Sahmarani has galvanized a group to to found a new “Alkindy” literary and cultural space, named after the ninth-century Iraqi philosopher.

Sahmarani began gathering information and pitching the idea in April at this year’s Tripoli International Book Fair.

According to the crowdfunding page:

Through our presence at Tripoli Book Fair we were able to attract nearly 600 interested individuals that contributed offline to the campaign and lots of community support.The enthusiasm for this project is fairly translated on the Facebook page we recently launched – second week of April: https://www.facebook.com/alkindytripoli

“We were able to attract nearly 600 interested individuals that contributed offline”

Sahmarani told Lebanon’s Daily Starin a recently published report, that some of the responses she got from polling fair-goers were depressing. Around 70 percent of people she surveyed said that they hadn’t read a book for pleasure in the previous year. However, on the plus side, 44 percent said they would read more if they were “part of a reading club or literary community, had easier access to books or received guidance on what to read.”

Thus the motivation for Alkindy, which is set to include: a small library and a bookshop, study rooms or private reading rooms, a meeting room, and a cafe or social space.

The Zoomal crowdfunding campaign for the site has fifteen days to go and a little more than $5,000 left to fully fund the project.

In a video on the crowdfunding page, Tripoli residents talk about why they want this space. The guy who loves the smell of books is a heart-melter (see Arabic clip above).

alkindyfair.jpg
Alkindy initiator (right) having fun with some guests at Tripoli Book Fair

The space also promises to organize and host cultural events. This venture will have to support itself, so those who want to fully benefit from the space (and be able to check out books) will need to become members, at the not insignificant cost of $240 a year.

As they mention in the video, Tripoli does have public libraries accessible to all. However, library hours are limited. And as Sahmarani told the Daily Star,  Tripoli doesn’t have the same public reading culture as Beirut. This is part of what she’s trying to change.

“In Beirut, it’s different,” she told the Daily Star. “You have cafes for that. In Tripoli, it (reading) hasn’t become a habit yet, so when you’re sitting somewhere and reading, you (feel) awkward.”

The crowdfunding campaign:

…is here. Perhaps if you crowdfund from outside Tripoli, you can choose to pledge your membership to a “scholarship” fund for those who otherwise couldn’t afford it.