A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Raid on Nabi Daniel: Targeting Booksellers in Alexandria

Nabi Daniel St. Before and After (Al-Wafd)
Apparently at the behest of the newly-appointed Governor of Alexandria, security forces early today destroyed book kiosks on historic Nabi Daniel Street in Alexandria. As the photos show, books were piled in the street after security forces dismantled the kiosks. The booksellers insist they have valid licenses, and the resulting outcry has led to a pledge from the Minister of Culture to look into the case and punish those responsible if it was done illegally. Writers and others are naturally protesting, and let me add my own voice to theirs: there is no justification for destroying bookstores so precipitately. If there is some legal issue, settle it in the courts.

The Nabi Daniel booksellers have their own website and their own Facebook page. Not, in other words, some sort of clandestine, underground operation. It isn't clear why the new Governor, Muhammad Atta Abbas, took the move; there has been a government campaign against street vendors in Cairo, but targeting long-established booksellers specifically is particularly alarming.

I plan to follow this story as it evolves. There is no justification for destroying booksellers. None.


Elise said...

It sounds like 48 BCE all over again.

Anonymous said...

Does the Izbekiyah book market still exist unmolested. Also note this as a companion piece. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/7157/the-tragedy-of-books-in-egypt
Mike Albin

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Elise: yes indeed. No Cleopatra in this tale though, as far as I know. And the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina is untouched, but also pretty inaccessible to the average Egyptian reader, I suspect.

Anonymous: Ezbekiyya's bookstalls are back after being absent during the 90s for subway construction, bur are apparently more structured and regulated. The Khaled Fahmy piece I already linked to in its Ahram Online version, which I saw before Jadaliyya's.