There is something enchanting about the idea of a café that doubles as a bookshop. Add an art gallery to the mix and you have Bibliothek Egypt, the perfect place for seekers of beauty and knowledge, looking to find an escape from the noise and bustle of the city.
I struggled a little to find the place, as it was hidden in the new extension of Akran Plaza El-Sheikh Zayed. However, the bright and welcoming entrance made up for any time I spent searching in the chill springtime breeze.
Upon entering, you can go one of three ways: into the brightly lit bookshop stocked with volumes in Arabic and English, into the small and cozy self-service café, or along the curved wall into the ambient-lit exhibition space.
Knowing I would want to explore every corner of this new discovery, I started by entering the exhibition ‘Imagining A Landscape,’ which featured pieces from Egyptian artists such as Imane Ibrahim, Meram Adly, Mostafa Abo Aly, and Alia Bassioni.
After a stroll through the art pieces and a mental note to ask if they were available for sale – which they were, for prices ranging from EGP 4,000 (USD 250) to EGP 15,000 (USD 950) – I moved on to the bookshop. From beautifully bound classics to visually stunning coffee table books, there were books for absolutely every area of interest. Thinking of my to-read pile at home, I resisted the temptation to stop by the cashier on my way out.
I did, however, have some work to do, so I settled into the narrow, black-and-white-tiled café for a cup of tea. All the other patrons around me were also seated with laptops in front of them. When I asked whether WiFi was available, I was met with a nearly incredulous “Of course!” from Mohamed, the waiter who also explained to me that I could help myself to coffee and tea from the small table in the corner.
Though the selection of drinks is not exactly what you would call gourmet or specialty, being able to make your own cup of tea while you sit and work made the space feel all the more like home. The prices of the drinks reflect this low-maintenance character, too – I paid 35 EGP (USD 2.3) for two drinks. The café is also stocked with baked goods, a few flavours of gelato, as well as ready-made snacks and soft drinks.
I sat and worked as the sun went down over the café terrace that was likely deserted due to the cold, and then left my table to attend a talk hosted by the organizer of the ‘Imagining A Landscape’ exhibition, Ismail Fayed, with Imane Ibrahim, an Alexandrian artist whose work was featured in the exhibition. The talk, which felt more like an intimate conversation, discussed the artist’s background and her inspirations, and left the listeners with a wholly new impression of her work.
For a Sheikh Zayed resident like me, Bibliothek Egypt felt like an ideal place to spend my time. The quiet comfort of it makes it a great place to work if one’s work is remote, and the added bonus of having access to books and art one may have never otherwise discovered makes it all the more welcoming.
Bibliothek Egypt is located on the second floor of the extension of Arkan Plaza in El-Sheikh Zayed City off the 26 July Corridor.