Diwan was a revelation when it first opened in 2002 and offered both Arabic and English books in a boutique atmosphere. Warm and inviting, the well-designed shop includes a café in new bookstore fashion, and it’s nice to just linger there even if you’re not in the market to add to your collection of books.

Showcasing new titles, bestsellers and sometimes art in the foyer, the bookstore’s entrance leads to the multimedia section on the left, which is well-stocked with classic Arabic and English DVDs and recent releases. The section also carries a wide selection of both Middle Eastern and world music; including albums by Nasseer Shamma and the Buddha Bar collection.

The right side of the bookstore holds a collection of local and imported specialised stationary such as Moleskine day-planners, Hani Mahfouz Designs notebooks, bookmarks, cards, calendars, photo albums and funky wrapping paper. Their recently opened stationary store, Qirtassiyat, also on 26th of July Street, offers a wider selection.

The centre of the shop holds the classically-styled, dark wooden bookcases and stacks, as well as their café. The book section is visually attractive and makes for a relaxed browsing experience, while two comfortable armchairs offer a quiet reading space.

The store's book collection is quite varied and available in four languages: Arabic, English, French and German, across several genres including Arabic literature, art & design, cookery, history & politics, mind, body & spirit, and reference & dictionaries. Egypt-specific titles are a standout in various formats, especially coffee-table volumes and historical books. English paperbacks start at around 70LE, while hardbacks usually start at 120LE.

The small children and teen’s section is supposedly the largest selection of children’s books in Egypt, though it’s really just a nook in comparison to both Shorouk’s Zamalek and Mohandiseen locations, which have entire rooms dedicated to children’s books.

The café is also tiny and slightly awkwardly centred, but it offers a nice refuge among pensive browsers with homemade carrot cake and decent coffee. A small collection of cooking and diet books are stacked next to the tables, including an adequate selection of BBC Good Food series and a few of Jamie Oliver’s books (ranging between 60LE and 150LE).

Diwan also offers home delivery, book-binding, free special orders, gift-wrapping, gift vouchers, loyalty cards and a used book exchange. The bookstore hosts events at least once a week, including book launches and author signings as well as children’s storytelling. There is even an online book club community– join their mailing list to get all the latest details.