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Five libraries around the world that are open despite the odds

Mar 2, 2018

On World Book Day, a look at libraries from Egypt to Dominica that have remained open despite death threats, extreme weather and terrorism.

Iraqi assistant Imam Sheikh Mahmood Hachim sifts through the thousands of books in Baghdad’s Imam Alhaq Ali mosque in 2003. The books were looted from Iraq National Library after the fall of the capital, with some returned when clerics spoke out.


he Vanished Library in Cairo, Egypt


A converted villa in an affluent district of south Cairo is home to the Bardo Clubhouse, a buzzing cultural hub with a library on its ground floor. Founded by passionate book lover Omar Amin, who left his job in marketing in November to dedicate himself to the library full time, the multilingual collection is made up of donations, including a first edition Harry Potter and a 1927 edition of Kafka’s Amerika which Amin found while rummaging through the Egyptian capital’s book markets.


It is a risky time to be setting up. Al-Karama library was raided in December 2016by Egyptian security forces, part of a larger crackdown on freedom of expression. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 20 journalists were imprisoned in 2017, and Egyptian writer and activist Basma Aziz reports that “many publishing houses are subjected to harassment”. But despite the risks, Amin wants to encourage people in the frantic city of Cairo to rediscover the simple pleasure of reading.

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