Al Saqi, Europe’s largest Middle Eastern bookseller, to close

London-based Al Saqi Books, Europe’s largest specialist bookseller for publications from the Middle East, has been forced to close because of the hike in prices of Arabic-language books and because Brexit has been "detrimental" to business

Al Saqi Books in Bayswater opened in 1978 and sells books on the Middle East and North Africa in English, and on all subjects in Arabic.

Its recent top-selling titles, according to its website, included the cookbook Bread and Salt by Asmahan Barwani, in Kurdish and English, and Classical Poems by Arab Women, a bilingual book in English and Arabic.

The shop will shut on 31 December this year, with bookshop director Salwa Gaspard saying it was a “difficult decision that had to be made because of recent economic challenges, such as the sharp increases in Arabic-language book prices”.

Al Saqi Books was founded by Andre and Salwa Gaspard and the late Mai Ghoussoub, three friends who had settled in London from war-torn Lebanon.

The shop, said a statement about its closure, was a "leading light not only for Middle Eastern expatriates, but for visitors from across the region keen to obtain works banned in their own countries".

Gaspard said the bookshop used to source and buy its stock from Lebanon, "but the economic situation there has made this all but impossible", as book prices in the country had increased dramatically.

© The Guardian 2022

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