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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Bikya: Cairo's Coolest Bookshop Opens New Branch in Maadi
Attention to all book worms in Cairo: Bikya has just opened up their second branch in Maadi. After the enormous success of the Nasr City branch, the young owners decided to expand their bookshop/café to the lush Maadi area. Bikya Maadi is located on Road 9, just across from McDonald’s.
The venue in Maadi is significantly larger than the Nasr City branch and it also sports a big stage for live performances. Bikya, as well as functioning as a bookshop, is also known for hosting local talents on their stage. Some very well-known artists such as RaSh Radio and Hany Mustafa regularly perform at Bikya. However, that being said Bikya’s focus is essentially on books; specifically second hand books.
The shop is divided into a couple rooms, all decked out with different types of seating and tables. If you are looking for a quiet place to study you should absolutely consider coming here. There is a terrace as well and, while it was a bit too hot to sit on at the time of our visit, it would be perfect for the winter months. The walls inside are adorned with artwork and photographs by local artists where all the items are for sale. Pop art enthusiasts will love the work done by Habiba Koura and for the underground band groupies, there is a photo section with some beautiful shots of Egypt’s upcoming talent.
The most impressive part of the book section is probably the classics department which carries books written by heavyweight writers such as Hemingway, Mahfouz and Dumas. Some of the books are almost 20 to 30 years old. The section on Egypt is also quite impressive and a haven for Egyptian history lovers. Bikya also carries a lot of children’s books and has a significant Arabic department. The best thing about many of these books is that most of the copies are unique; you might come across a book’s edition that isn’t available anywhere else. With some book prices starting as low as 5LE, these gems are also an incredible bargain.
As if great deals on books and live entertainment weren’t enough, Bikya also serves food which we highly recommend as you browse around. The spinach quiche (17LE) was well flavoured with a nice crust, making for a healthy snack. However, the true stars on the menu are their yoghurt drinks; the berry yoghurt shake (20LE) was delicious with the perfect combination of sweet berries and tart yoghurt. Also available are a selection of soups, sandwiches and cakes. The service is quick and attentive.
Apart from being a bookshop Bikya also serves as a cultural centre in a way, which can only be good for arts and culture in Cairo. Keep an eye out for Cairo360’s event calendar where all of Bikya’s happenings are listed.
There's no shortage of bookshops in Cairo, and Zamalek is home to many book-filled nooks and crannies. Some of these shops moonlight as venues for intimate concerts or regularly host speakers and authors. Yet Livres De France sets itself apart from local rivals by boasting a substantial portion of its stock, from law texts to children’s books, in French. Located on the first floor of a building on Brazil Street across from the Spanish Embassy, you will have to spot a golden placard on the building’s wall to locate this small Francophile haven.
The bookshop takes up two large rooms of an apartment, but sliding bookshelves have allowed it to amass a greater stock than initially meets the eye. We first made our way to the English section, although we quickly found that English and French books were interspersed through a few of the shelves. In fact, we had a little difficulty orienting ourselves, as different sections or genres were not clearly separated or labelled.
Several shelves were dedicated to regional books focusing on the Middle East and covered anything and everything from tourism and art to Egyptian literature. For those with an interest in the region, whether in English or French, this shop will certainly provide you with a wide array of literature.
Livres De France also hosts a substantial number of Naguib Mahfouz’s translated works in French. We were, however, disappointed to find that a majority of the books were plastic-wrapped and we were unable to indulge in any skimming. After roaming over to the sale section, we spotted a hard-back cover of Alaa El Aswany’s Chicago, on sale for 80LE compared to 75LE for a paperback copy at neighbouring bookshops.
A vast assortment of children’s books was available in French, ranging from comics and story books to atlases and aviation. English Harry Potter books went for around 75LE each, while their French counterparts were quite a bit more expensive at 250LE. Another shelf was devoted to tutorial books in French which covered chemistry, grammar, math and physics, among other topics. Flanking the children’s books was a shelf devoted to cookbooks, predominantly in French, and we spotted a tagine cookbook complete with a tagine set.
We were perhaps most excited to rummage through their selection of posters and prints. Arabic calligraphy prints started at 60LE and beautiful coloured prints of plants and fruits by Pierre-Joseph Redoute went for 35LE. Old maps of Egypt dating to the 1500s and posters of old stamps were also available.
On the other side of the room, various Oriental prints were going for 40LE, while beautiful printed Islamic geometric patterns went up to 280LE. A collection of decorated notebooks were on display at the shop’s entrance.
On the balcony, a table and chairs allows for a respite while enjoying a breeze overlooking a greener area of Zamalek. Although the abundance of plastic-wrap left us feeling that the place was a bit inaccessible, we were nonetheless impressed by the great collection of books focused on the Middle East. However, for those seeking English-language books across a variety of topics, this may not be the place to go.
The collection of rare and old books.
The place is still lacking some character.
Bikya has a no smoking policy, so get your butt outside before lighting up.