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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Books, bookstores and libraries in Qatar

Future updates to this post will be made on the Books, Book Stores and Libraries section of our website. For book reviews of books related to Qatar and Arabic Culture see Qatar books.

There don’t seem to be many books in Qatar, a fact which is not surprising when you consider that more books are read in Greece than in the whole of the Gulf. In fact, sometimes your spirits lift when you are about to enter into a bookstore, only to find out that in fact only stationary is sold.

There are currently two bookshops with a good selection of English books. Jareer bookstore is set on Salwa Road. It's a large store, and has a cafe on the ground floor. You’ll have to go upstairs to find the books though – the first time I went in I thought there were no books, as downstairs is the usual stationary, computers, postcards and so on.

Turn off Salwa Road into the little side road that goes past Jareer bookstore, turn right, left, right and left again at the traffic lights onto Nasser Street and you’ll find Family bookstore (close to the next set of traffic lights). Smaller and cosier than Jareer, Family bookstore still has a good selection of books (better than Jareer in some areas) – perhaps because it is wholly dedicated towards books. I liked the way that books about Qatar and The Gulf jumped out at you as soon as you entered the shop – probably as good a selection as you’ll find anywhere except in the Qatar Visitor Shop.

Only two bookstores, but the competition is about to hot up. Magrudy's, a chain from Dubai, are about to open a franchise in The Centre, with two more shops to follow.

There’s also the Qatar National Library. No, this is not the sci-fi building you’ll probably see if you do a search on the internet – this has yet to be built. The current National Library is set in a pleasantly-old building. (This is something you appreciate after being here a while - old buildings are an endangered species in Qatar!) It’s located on Ras Abu Abour Street – drive right to the end of the Corniche and take the first exit off the roundabout, go straight ahead and you’ll find it on the corner of the second roundabout you come across.

Its difficult to join – you have to complete a form in Arabic, get it stamped by your employer and so on and so forth – but anyone can wander in and start reading. Free newspapers are available downstairs, but go upstairs, through the doors ahead of you, turn left and walk round to the back and you’ll find the English section. Don’t expect anything new, but there are treasures to be found. (There are signs asking to leave your books on the table – which is exactly where I found them when I returned after a two week absence!)

Read Reviews of Qatar Books

Qatar Newspapers

Qatar Visitor Bookstore