Where Are the Best Places to Buy (Arabic) Children’s Books in Cairo?

The winner! Al-Balsam Bookstore

My list might be different for children’s books in English or grown-up books in any language. (Indeed, I’ve not yet been upstairs at Al-Balsam books, where they keep the foreign titles. And they certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for grown-up books, as they don’t stock them.)

Now and again, sure, we do buy English-language books in Cairo. Bernadette Simpson’s An ABC Escapade through Egypt, for instance. Or those little Sunflower books featuring the adventures of Abdu and family. The odd Oliver Twist.

But mostly, when I go to a bookstore in Cairo, it’s to seek out the best Arabic books.

Anyhow, my list:

1. Al-Balsam

Hands down, hands tied behind its back, or “look ma, no hands”: This is the best place to buy Arabic children’s books in Cairo. Instead of marginalizing the Arabic children’s books on a single shelf, they are front and center—the entire first floor of the shop. And these books are not just from a few Egyptian publishing houses, but also from Lebanon and I’m sure elsewhere. (I need a full half-day to really explore the store.)

It’s quite a trek for us, over to the Giza side by the Sixth of October bridge, but well worth it. As we left, my older son told me that “we don’t have enough money for all the books I wanted to get.” (Probably true.)

2. Sherouk

My favorite is the store on Shera3 Baghdad, but there’s perhaps no good reason for that. Here, you can find many of the Sherouk titles you can’t find elsewhere, and it’s definitely worth your time to dig through the racks. They also host children’s book events and readings.

Lots of children’s titles here, and at excellent prices.

3. Diwan

But make sure you go to a bigger one like Zamalek or Heliopolis; not the new Ma’adi store, for instance.

4. Kotob Khan

This might be tied with Diwan, except there’s little space/no place for kids to sit and look at the books. Good titles from a variety of publishers.

5. Alef

They have a lovely start—a gorgeous location on Shera3 Merghany, and some great book events–but right now they’ve mainly got Nahdet Masr (translations) and Shorouk titles, as well as a handful from Balsam. I appreciate that they have such a nice display for the Fizo books, of course. And there staff has always been very responsive to anything I wanted to order.

Places that will surprise you (in a good way):

Adam Bookshop (you can find a list of Arabic children’s books on their website, with an emphasis on books in translation. Perhaps not the widest selection, but some titles in translation you may not find elsewhere. They also have a nice English-language section, if memory serves, as well as a little corner where younger ones can play. )

Bookspot–I thought this story was all English-language titles (maybe it used to be?), but these days they also have some Arabic books, such as new Bloomsbury-Qatar and Kalimat titles. Also, if you’re going to find affordable English-language children’s books anywhere, it’ll be here.

Places that will surprise you (in a not-good way):

Books & Books, in Ma’adi. Their Arabic section is tiny and dusty and sad. It is outperformed even by their selection of books in…Spanish.

Samir & Ali. I don’t know why my husband continues to bring home titles he picked up here. They’re cheap, yes. And…they’re cheap.

Other stores that at least carry some children’s books, but I haven’t visited, so can’t rank them (list swiped from Al-Balsam Publishing):

  • Planet Books Bookstores مكتبات بلانيت بوكس
  • Egyptian American مكتبات ايجيبشان أمريكان
  • Omega أوميجا
  • Al Ahram Bookstores مكتبات الأهرام
  • Afaq Bookshop, Kasr Al Aini St. مكتبة آفاق، القصر العينى
  • Town House Gallery, Downtown  مكتبة تاون هاوس، وسط البلد
  • Sanabel Bookshop, Downtown مكتبة سنابل، وسط البلد
  • Al Balad Bookstore, Downtown  مكتبة البلد، وسط البلد
  • Fair Trade Egypt, Zamalek فاير تريد مصر، الزمالك
  • Opera Bookstore, 6th of October City  مكتبة أوبرا، مدينة 6 أكتوبر
  • Ain Bookstore, 6th of October City  مكتبة عبن، مدينة 6 أكتوبر
  • Books and Beans, Mansoura بوكس أند بينس بالمنصورة
  • Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria مكتبة الأسكندرية
  • Maarouf Bookshop, San Stefano Mall, Alexandria مكتبة معروف، سان ستيفانو مال، الأسكندرية
  • Borsit Al Kotob, 25 Sherif St., Downtown – مكتبة بورصة الكتب، 25 شارع شريف، وسط البلد

I will try to gather intelligence about the best places to buy children’s books in other cities around the region. But please, if you have information, do share!

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4 Responses to Where Are the Best Places to Buy (Arabic) Children’s Books in Cairo?

  1. Bernadette says:

    Great post! We are usually lazy, and a little overwhelmed, to leave Ma’adi when we visit Cairo, but Nadim has been pleased with the titles we’ve found at Kotob Khan and Bookspot. We really need to check out Al-Balsam the next time we’re in town though!

    I LOVE the Abdu stories, too. I wish Sunflower would publish some more. They are awesome for children in Egypt learning English…even our Bedouin children in Sinai can relate to many of the stories and illustrations!

    • mlynxqualey says:

      This is perhaps a little personal for the website…but Rami wants to name the baby “Abdu,” after the series. (Of course, if it’s a girl, that’s probably out….)

      • Bernadette says:

        Um, did I miss something?! I have a feeling I should be saying congratulations – so congratulations!!
        If a girl, she’ll have to be Tofaha!! 😉

  2. AlSalwaBooks says:

    The best place to buy children books in Jordan by far would be Hakwati Bookstore
    it is a bookstore dedicated for children books and boasts a great and big selection of Arabic Children books, displayed very nicely as well! It also has room for both children and parents to sit down and read, and has craft making sections, and has ongoing activities to keep children interested in books.
    You could be certain to see us there with activities all throughout the year.
    Their website will give you more information:
    http://www.hakawati.jo

    Readers Bookstore
    Located at Cozmo Center, is also a lovely bookstore with a wide selection of Arabic & English books, also has an area for children to sit and read. They have activities for children and adults as well all throughout the year.
    Unfortunately their website is still under construction but their phone number is +009626 5828488

    The Good Book Shop
    A quaint book shop as I’d like to call it, located at 1st circle – rainbow street. This bookstore looks great because it has a glass front so you get to see all the whole bookstore from the street. It also has a place to have coffee and tea. They have a good selection of children books but are working on creating a better display for the Arabic Children books in particular. Check out their website for further contact information.
    http://www.thegoodbookshop.com

    Prime Bookstore
    Located at Baraka Mall, its’ location is really “prime” in the sense that it’s easy to find and right near one of Amman’s best cinemas, so people get to check out the books coming and going out of the cinema. It has a good selection of children books, and are keen to expand their Arabic children book section.

    Al Manhal Publishing
    Has a wide selection of Arabic children books, no area to sit or activities for children but if you’re looking for a certain title that you can’t find they have a very wide selection.
    +0096265687739

    Hope that helps!

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