July 27, 2016
Somalia is now home to new bookstores, multiple book fairs
by Julia Fleischaker
Abdi Latif Dahr reports in Quartz that the book market in Somalia is on the rise, with a new bookstore opening in Mogadishu, the city’s first, and multiple book fairs being held across the country.
In the craggy hills of Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland, organizers and participants this morning (July 23) flooded the opening ceremony of the ninth edition of the Hargeysa International Book Fair. In four days, almost 400 miles away in Garowe, the administrative capital of Puntland region, the second edition of another book fair will be launched. And in just over three weeks, in the seaside capital of Mogadishu, another international book fair will kick off, also for its second year.
This year, the Hargeysa Book Fair has a theme of leadership and creativity, investigating the relationship between leaders and the communities they serve, and exploring “different forms of leadership, political, social, religious, and entrepreneurial, unravelling past and present forms of leadership as well as our hopes for future leaders.”
In Mogadishu, Mohamed Dubo was inspired by the city’s first book fair, which was an important development in a city that had no bookstores or public libraries. He’s now opening his own bookstore, and has plans to expand, adding a library.
Dubo, who reads three books a month, says he wants to popularize bookselling in Somalia and to expand into other cities across the entire country. As a businessman, “I am looking at it from a profitability perspective,” he says. But as a Somali, he sees his venture as a socially responsible venture, enabling fellow Somalis “to grow through reading and nurture their talents.”
Somalia is the fifth-poorest country in the world, with staggering unemployment and very few opportunities for education. Dubo believes that opening up the country to books can only help. “‘Books,’ he says, teach you about the world and instill in you that ‘you have a responsibility to grow.’”
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.