Bikya: Second-Hand Books and Coffee in Cairo
Nestled on a quiet street on the outskirts of Nasr City,
the newest readers’ haven is Bikya, a serene space loaded with second-hand
paperbacks and à-la-carte coffee and snacks.
Driven by a dream that they shared back in high school, it took five
months for five women in their mid-twenties to see this dream through; bringing
Cairo its first
second-hand bookstore. Their name ‘Bikya’ is a nod to Egypt’s
ubiquitous junk collectors who roam the streets calling ‘rubabikya!’
The store’s interiors exude a comfortable mood. Orange, cardinal and
grey colours are set against brown, modern-edged wooden furniture, adding to
the hip ambience that is signature of this space. Tables, chairs and couches
are placed all around, making for a generous reading space.
The bookstore houses a vast collection of second-hand books, most of
which look like they’ve been barely used. Some sit in straw baskets placed in corners of the room, while the
bigger bulk of books line the walls in neat sections arranged according to
English language books on offer fall into numerous categories,
including: mystery/drama/thriller, history/politics, religion, fiction,
non-fiction and romance/comedy. The fiction shelf houses classics such as Gone with the Wind and 1984, as well as contemporary works by
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Japanese-English Kuzuo Ishiguro, Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz and Lebanon’s Amin
Maalouf, among many others.
Arabic books are also on offer, and arranged according to genres of
literature, politics, religion and arts. At Bikya, most books are sold for 75 percent of their original price; if
you dig deep, some books will come to a mere 5LE. While in store, check out their opening menu, which offers coffee,
juice, sandwiches and baked goods all under 20LE.
On a cold day, bundle up next to the window, where the sunlight comes
right through and carpets ensure comfortable seating. And if you are not in the
mood for heavy literature, dig into the straw baskets to find old Vogue issues and other selected magazine
copies. If you feel like playing a board game with friends, Bikya has
Pictionary and Scrabble tucked atop one of the shelves.
Bikya is more than just a book store. On its opening weekend, the store hosted a number of
local talents on three consecutive nights, including Shady Ahmed, RaSh Radio
and Double Barrel. While
they pledge ongoing activities, it won’t be restricted to just music.