Smarty Pants Podcast

A Literary Love Letter to Egypt

The story of Cairo’s first modern bookstore

By Stephanie Bastek | October 8, 2021
Andrew Mason
Andrew Mason

In 2002, literacy was at an all-time low in Egypt, revolution was a few short years away, and Nadia Wassef opened an independent bookstore named Diwan in Cairo. With her sister Hind and her friend Nihal, Wassef built an oasis for lovers of the written word, whether Arabic, English, French, or German. Diwan now has seven locations—and two mobile book trucks—having survived recessions, censorship, misogyny, and political turmoil. Wassef joins the podcast to talk about the story of the store in her new book, Shelf Life.

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