LONDON: Europe’s biggest Middle Eastern bookstore is set to close after 44 years of business, The Guardian reported.
Al Saqi Books in London blamed a surge in prices of Arabic-language books as well as the economic effects of Brexit.
The bookstore, established in 1978, sells a wide range of literature covering the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Arabic-language books from all categories.
Al Saqi Books will close on Dec. 31, said director Salwa Gaspard, who opened the shop together with Andre Gaspard and Mai Ghoussoub after leaving Lebanon.
The move was a “difficult decision that had to be made because of recent economic challenges, such as the sharp increases in Arabic-language book prices,” she added.
The shop sourced most of its titles from Lebanon, but the country’s economic crisis has led to a surge in prices and difficulty importing books, Gaspard said.
She added: “Publishers have had to raise them (prices) to stay in business, as paper and shipping have effectively doubled in cost.
“Another factor is the exchange rate, which is no longer favorable to us — we used to pay in US dollars.
“Then, of course, there is the rise in the UK cost of living. The costs associated with operating the bookshop have become too high.
“We used to sell many books to the EU, which is no longer feasible because of duties and such (as a result of Brexit).
“Arabic libraries in the UK — another important part of our business — are buying far fewer books. And we have lost a large part of our customer base as Arab visitors from overseas are not visiting in the same numbers.
“There is a generational issue there, as well: Younger people do not stop by as often as their parents did.”
Despite the closure, Al Saqi Books’ small publishing wings Saqi Books and Dar Al Saqi will stay operational.
In a statement, the bookstore described itself as 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.”