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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.
By far, probably the most prestigious, stylish and well-stocked English language bookshop in Cairo is located inside the Downtown campus of the American University in Cairo; the exquisite two-storey English bookstore is open to anyone, not just students and faculty members.
Just provide some ID at the entrance and the security guard will direct you through the university grounds to the shop. Though heavily guarded and shielded from view from the outside, the university grounds feature an enchanting green garden that is incredibly tranquil and carefully tended to by the gardeners. The quiet, green area is dotted with wooden seating, so you can sit and relax in a place of beauty and peace. Inside the building, the silence is everywhere, and that must be respected by all visiting.
The book prices are on the expensive side, however; Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, for example, costs 100LE, while a beautiful and large hardback copy of the Qur'an (in English) costs 330LE.
Though a range of different books can be found, a strong emphasis is placed on subjects corresponding to fields of study at AUC. Some of the clearly labelled sections within this immaculately organised vicinity include: Learning Arabic, Poetry and Drama and Classics, which contain books by William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens.
A tiny area also focuses on colourful children's books which are very beautifully bound and carefully presented; there are some wonderful pop-up books, too, which would make wonderful gifts. Another area has a small selection of stationary with journals, notebooks and sketchbooks; one A4 sketchbook costs 40LE and one, A5 leather bound journal costs 100LE.
Should you wish to take a moment to browse through some books, there are a couple of wooden chairs and tables available in the far side of the book shop and there will always be somebody available should you have any queries or concerns.