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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
The BookSpot: Quiet Maadi Treasure, Great Deals
If you’re anything like us, you love sales: discounts, bargains; whatever word happens to float your boat. There’s nothing like beating the streets of Cairo in search of something and then stumbling upon it unintentionally; and for a good deal!
Located on Road Nine in Maadi next to Costa Coffee is Maadi’s little home-grown bookshop, the BookSpot. Opened since 2004, this shop is unique in the fact that not only does it carry over 5000 used books; but it also has a buyback program for all of those old books that you’re never going to read again.
Near the shop's front are the children’s books and a small play area so that parents can spend time perusing for themselves. You’ll find the used book section along the left wall while the new ones fill up the right. Used and new alike, the shop carries a wide selection for such a small place and although it’s a little crowded, the simple layout makes it easy for some book browsing.
The used books section includes everything from cookbooks to fiction of all genres–Michael Crichton readers will find a slew of his latest for 25LE and above. We also found Alaa Aswany’s Chicago for 41LE as well as used magazines from 2009 (averaging around 20LE). While we aren’t quite sure why you’d want a 2009 issue of Esquire, there are some pretty faces gracing the covers. Students will appreciate the shelf of used textbooks, which are much cheaper than your average campus prices. All books are in almost-perfect condition; with the fixed price clearly marked on the inside cover.
From Oscar Wilde to Jane Austen, if you’re looking for some classical reads; their new books section is surprisingly well-stocked and pleasant. The selection included two books that were on our list: Out of Place by Edward Said (90LE) and an unabridged copy of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina for a mere 25LE. Catcher in the Rye was also there for 55LE. Other sections include religious studies, biographies and self-help books.
Two tables are centrally located for a quick read up and the staff are great at simply letting you browse so take your time and get yourself a new read or two. A small table carries a selection of teas, coffees and an electric kettle if you’d like to relax with a hot drink. The shop also sells an interesting collection of photographs of rural Egyptian countryside, as well as some pleasant greeting cards and postcards.
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.