You might have passed by this kioske with the big Coca Cola sign on it while driving down Basman Street to the bustling historic downtown area of Amman, but did you ever stop by and take a look inside?
Not your traditional bookshop, Al Jahiz bookstop is a historical landmark of the city that’s been run by two* generations of the al-Ma’aeitah* family. (Read a great article about Al Jahiz Bookstop on The Jordan Times: Al Jahiz Bookshop: Maintaining the connection between people and books)
We stopped by it on our way to the old souk when my friend Yasmeen wanted to ask about a book. Hisham* al-Ma’aeitah, son* of the founder of Al Jahiz bookstop and current owner, was more than delighted to assist and give us a brief history of his unique book kiosks started in 1931.
As a self-professed book addict, I was charmed by this little kioske and the vast history behind it. The collection of both Arabic and English books serves as colorful wallpaper, surrounding the sides of the kioske and begging to be read.
People rarely read today, Hisham discussed, whether this is due to laziness or technology eliminating the need to. In an effort to encourage people to read, Hisham promises to give you back your money if you return a book you bought within a month. So say you buy a book that costs 15 JD, they’ll give you back 14 JD when you return it – a modest 1 JD rental fee. His hope is that by doing that, people will feel more inclined to finish the book they bought and return for more.
The Al Jahiz bookstop is one way book lovers are hanging on to a precious literary tradition – and in the most unlikely of places. But check it out soon as this “bedouin” library moves around Jordan (it has already moved around 15 times within Jordan) and may be somewhere else in the coming few months..
Updated: Thank you Hythammer for helping us update the information (marked with *) in this post. You may read more in his comment below sharing the origin story of the bedouin book kioske.