Dubai bookshops you might never have heard of
While there’s an argument to suggest that Book World by Kinokuniya in Dubai Mall might be the greatest shop of any kind in any country anywhere in the Middle East, it’s by no means the only place in the emirate to enjoy the unique pleasure of browsing shelves of books. In fact, there might be an extra element of delight in buying your holiday reads from a store that you build a more intimate relationship with.
Naturally, Shortlist is an advocate of reading. So we recommend the following with as much aggression as bibliophiles will allow. Go and discover these! Please.
For some reason, no one from Kinokuniya seemed to enquire whether the name “Book World” had already been taken when they opened in Dubai Mall. But there’s not really much chance of confusion. This undeniably quirky store, tucked away in the warrenlike streets of Satwa, is stuffed floor to ceiling with books, comics, encyclopaedias and the like. The price here completely depends on the condition, starting at AED5 up to a week’s wages for an expensive encyclopaedia set. There could be a whole section on the secrets of the Satwa district, so give yourself a few hours to enjoy this and its many neighbours before haggling away for your next purchase.
The Old Library
Where: DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates
By far the oldest location on this list, The Old Library owes its beginnings to a British expatriate from the late 1960s, whose personal collection started it all off. While it could be argued that any shop in the MOE is hardly a secret, you could walk around the mall a hundred times and not stop to take a minute. On top of that, the library has been based in, among other places, the home of a British Political agent, unused offices in the centre of Dubai and a Portakabin in Jumeirah 1.
Archie’s Lending Library and Bookshop
Where: Dubai Pyramid Building, Trade Centre Road, Karama
Often described as one of the city’s best kept secrets, Archie’s Lending Library and Bookshop is a membership library along with a second hand bookstore. Another location started by a private collection, Archie’s now stocks over 60,000 titles in a variety of languages. The store attracts clients of all ages, and has a real family feel thanks to the sounds of regulars being greeted with their first names on arrival.
Contact: +971 4 396 7924
Where: Precinct Building 02, DIFC
We’re always slightly on our guard when we hear the phrase “cultural space”. We picture an empty shell with nothing more purposeful than some strip lighting and exposed brickwork. Here, though, there is some weight behind the term, with shelves of books specialising in the Middle East and Africa and a calendar of events that includes writing workshops, talks and a series of pop-up stores.
Where: Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz
As a creative space you would expect A4 to come up with great ideas, and with its #leaveyournote campaign, they’ve done exactly that. This initiative encourages people to leave a book of their choice, whether a favourite or in influential in some way, with a small handwritten note inside the cover. The movement has become international, with donations coming in from as far away as London, and has really helped create a sense of community and connection when browsing through the library of titles.