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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Volume 1: Get Crafty
This venue is primarily recognized as a book store, but the arts and crafts, stationary and gift section certainly makes a name for itself. The best part of the upper level bookstore is the magazine and newspaper section, where nearly every regional English and Arabic publication can be found. There is also an ample travel section where you can pick up guides for visiting Europe, Asia, or destinations closer to home. The graphic novel section is a bit shabby, housing mostly paperbacks Archie comics from the early nineties. Also available is a nice assortment of gift-appropriate coffee table books, and a children’s section for toddlers to grade-schoolers.
Downstairs you can find everything from paints, pastels, glue sticks and glitter to rolls of wrapping paper and bits and bobs to keep those art projects interesting. Shopping for gift cards? Need to add a bit of pizzazz to that last minute birthday card? Volume 1 is the go-to place for tinseling things up.
Also a place for professionals, Volume 1 sells calendar diaries, planners and address books in more varieties than you may know what to do with. Try the gift wrapping section as it has everything from silk bags to creative gift labels.
After eight years of being a Maadi favourite, thanks to its warm and cosy atmosphere, Al Kotob Khan recently moved onto bigger and better things with a new branch in Degla. Unlike its old branch on Laselky road, Al Kotob Khan's new shop has plenty of space for books and people alike.
The venue is a two story villa with a fair-spaced balcony that houses sets of tables and chairs. Both floors have books stacked from the ground up to the ceiling, as well as seating areas adjacent to the bookcases and shelves. At the time of our visit, much of the seating area was occupied by students who found a suitable atmosphere to study.
As mentioned earlier, the shop is much bigger than the previous branch, so stocking more varieties of books is one main advantage; everything from classic and modern novels, to historical and educational textbooks. You can also find multilingual books if you're looking for some language expansion.
Such diverse options make the shop a haven for bookworms; however; if you're a first-time-goer, the sheer amount of stock may overwhelm you.
Next to the cashier’s desk on the first floor is a fast-food bar that boasts a menu covering all sorts of snacks and drinks, starting from coffee, soft drinks, muffins and chocolate cakes, all the way to Panini sandwiches and chips.
As with any modern bookshop, there are plenty of stationary items for sale; an entire wall on the second floor dedicated to notebooks, printed and handmade, with colourful patterns and various sizes.
It’s easy to see why Al Kotob Khan has become a second home escapism to book-lovers; the welcoming and calm atmosphere and its wide range of books give it a slight edge over the franchised bookshops of Egypt. But be warned; you will almost certainly become addicted to Al Kotob Khan after a single visit, be it simply for book-shopping, studying or even catching a quick coffee with friends.