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Cairo-Alex Desert Rd, Cairo, Egypt.
Shorouk Bookstore: Cosy Bookshop in Dandy Mall
Located on the second floor of Dandy Mall on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, Shorouk Bookstore is inviting with a dark wood interior that is in contrast with the otherwise stark, white mall that’s clad in cold materials.
Stepping into the bookshop, one will find the checkout counter to the left surrounded by a variety of stationary items that include bookmarks designed in varying themes (20LE), small notepads in all sorts of colours and floral patterns (40LE-50LE), as well as a selection of pencil cases. There is also a stand with mainstream magazines close to the entrance.
As expected, the bookshop is divided into sections with the usual titles such as ‘Art & Design’, ‘Self-Help’ and ‘Travel’. Apart from these sections though, the books are pretty much separated into English and Arabic where the former is to the left and the latter is to the right of the space. Towards the very end, facing the entrance, is considerably large area dedicated to children's books .
Focusing on the English sections, we delved further into the left-hand side of the shop. Lured by their classics section, we set off to see what gems they have in store. Mostly Penguin publications, there is a reasonable variety of this literature. As well as older works by writers such as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Kafka and DH Lawrence, there was a selection of modern classics by Kerouac, Arthur Miller and Ayn Rand. It didn’t make sense however that The Fountainhead by the latter was priced at 87LE, while Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is just 48LE – both published by Penguin. Perhaps the former is simply longer in text, but Arthur Miller’s slim books also came to a similar high price.
Their interior design and architecture books are also noteworthy. They have quite a selection and the books available are nicely varied with a little of everything including decorating (around 190LE), one particular book focused on table styling (171LE) and there was one titled Dreaming Green (317LE).
While their design section is quite impressive, the art section was lacking. Another section that should have been more impressive was the cooking; they were few in number and not exactly inspiring.
There is a small biography section that wasn’t too enthralling either with focus on a range of famous figures including Mick Jagger, Barack Obama and Tony Blair. Their politics section on the other hand is jam-packed and very current with many local publications on the current events. Alaa El Aswany’s newest book On the State of Egypt is priced at 75LE.
Shorouk also has a ‘recommended’ section. Books such as the Steve Jobs biography (195LE), Why Men Love Bitches (85LE) and most Jodi Picoult books are included, as well as revolution-themed books such as Trafalgar to Tahrir by Rosemary Sabet (120LE) and Liberation Square by Ashraf Khalil (150LE). While taste is inarguable, we had hoped to see more originality in the choices. Publications addressing the revolution are a given, but Why Men Love Bitches - really?
The staff were short at the time our visit with only one attendant available to assist customers, which didn’t help with the awkward pile up at the till. However, overall Shorouk is a more than adequate spot to go book hunting.
Stationary shops are in no short supply in Egypt. The average type of stationary can be found on almost every other street corner. But once we start talking about quality, a wide selection and, sometimes, obscure little knick knacks, suddenly, there’s far fewer choices of stationeries to go to.
Possibly the most famous of all the stationary shops is Samir & Aly. Situated on Sherif St. in Downtown Cairo, this particular branch has two large spacious floors plus two separate quarters located at either side of Alwan.
With a much bigger selection than any other stationary shop, Samir & Aly look to meet all the needs from school and office supplies to an extensive art section with different types of paint, canvases, sketchbooks, paper, and even a selection of easel’s to choose from.
Sketchbooks are available in a range of sizes—A4, A3 and A5. The qualyty of the paper feels very rich. There is a whole wall dedicated to drawing pastels with one small box of 12 costing 53,55LE. A set of 18 Gouache paints costs 46LE plus the bottle of fixative to brush over your finished painting costs 14.95LE. Should you run out of one particular colour, Samir & Aly offer single 200ml tubes of acrylic paint at 23,90LE. Other sizes are available as well.
In the window there is a nice range of stylish stationary gifts including beautiful wooden pen holders for your desk; paper holders and organisers made from the same mahogany wood and even a large selection of lamps. One of the cheaper ones costs 50,89LE, whereas a more stylish and mobile lamp costs 159LE.
The prices here at Samir & Aly are a little steep, but that is reflected in the qualyty of the brands that they carry, including Faber Castell, Uni Ball, Parker Fabriano and Office.
The first branch of Samir & Aly was opened in 1969 by Samir El Maayergy and Aly Shatla, it quickly grew to four branches by the early 1980’s and thanks to their savvy business minds has became a staple of stationary shopping in Cairo.