Switch headers Switch to TIGweb.org

Are you an TIG Member?
Click here to switch to TIGweb.org

HomeHomeExpress YourselfPanoramaDiwan: A Place Where I Can Peacefully Breathe
a TakingITGlobal online publication

(Advanced Search)

Panorama Home
Issue Archive
Current Issue
Next Issue
Featured Writer
TIG Magazine
Short Story
My Content
Diwan: A Place Where I Can Peacefully Breathe Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Yara Kassem, Egypt
Citizen Journalism   Interviews
 1 2 3   Next page »


Diwan: A Place Where I Can Peacefully Breathe A couple of years ago in Cairo, five young people had the idea of making that project aiming to change and reorient their surrounding community, they wanted to open that bookstore, but not only a bookstore but a platform for many other cultural activities involving not only the youth but all the people in the surrounding community.

So on March 8th, 2002 they did it and they named it “Diwan”, a bookstore along with a café inside of it, you can drink your coffee while you’re reading your book or your magazine and listening to some nice music. Youth in Cairo loved the idea and got attracted to the place instantly, changing what some people had in mind that the Egyptian youth are not into culture. And as this sympathy started to grow between the place and those youth, we started noticing that the five partners had many and many of brilliant ideas to keep attracting the community to Diwan: holding art galleries in it from time to time, bringing famous musicians to sign their CDs for fans in Diwan, inviting bestsellers to discuss issues with their readers, story telling for kids with three languages and more. In an interview with one of the five young partners, Hind Wassef, I had the chance to chat with her about Diwan; that place in Cairo where you can peacefully breathe.

1. How did you get the idea? What were the steps taken to realize it and how did it all start?

We are five partners, friends. Each one of us was at a crossroad in our life, My sister and me for example we were doing NGO work, we were always dealing with big organizations and we thought it’s time to do something on our own, moving to something new.
The model is not something that we’ve invented, it exists all over the world, there’s everywhere that bookshop and café thing, there’s Barnes and Noble for example, so we thought why not trying.
We at first wanted a nice atmosphere, but in the same time nothing westernized, we had in mind that Arab motif that you can easily notice in the way we decorated the place, the packaging, and the logo. So we set up a company, we began to approach the stockiest, as to buy books, films, DVDs and so on. And we began to set up our opening inventory. It actually took much longer than we’ve expected as we’re now in the market since two years.

2. I understand it was quite a challenge to start this project, especially the fact that culture and reading isn’t the first priority for youth in Cairo. Would you tell me a bit about this?

Actually, every time we mentioned the idea to people they were getting skeptical and said no, people in Egypt don’t have reading among their priorities, but we thought that whenever there’s a good place it will attract people and customers.
It’s not that people are not into reading in Egypt, but it’s that Egyptians and Arabs in general from my point of view you have to go to them first, you really have to attract them and make them come. And then we thought that location is key, you have to be in people’s way so we’d chosen that place on that main street in Zamalek which played a major role in attracting people.

3. From your point of view, what are the most urgent issues in your city? What do you think you can do to help solving them? And how do you think youth can get involved?

I think that young people and particularly young women need to find a place where they’d feel safe and secure, being sure that no one’s going to approach them, no one’s going to bother them and I think that this is beginning to happen, in places like the cafes that are recently opening here and like here in Diwan, as they’re trying to preserve that safe atmosphere I’m talking about which is not the case if you go to any restaurant or a bar as a woman on your own.
Most of public places aren’t that friendly to me. For example, when I walk in the street I have to be looking down or just in front of me so no one would think that I’m open to suggestions or any kinds of comments and I think that any successful modern place (daytime place), should be providing the same thing to young girls.
I believe as well that culture is dropped from the priorities of youth in our community it is not really featured in their lives, as when it comes to youth here people always talk sports. As young people always go from school or work to sports clubs and so on. At first, we didn’t have this on mind, helping solve these problems and reorienting youth into culture. But, when we began to think about the place we realized that the place is taking on it’s own life, and it begins to take over your ideas and we began to think that this place could be a great place where people can feel that they can sit on their own, and that’s it’s not an odd scene when a girl sits by her own, and this doesn’t happen everywhere.

3. What inspires you? What keeps you going in difficult times?

People‘s feedback really inspires me, and the constructive criticism keeps me going in difficult times. Because I’m somehow used to that unconstructive criticism, when people criticize just for the sake of criticizing, but, it’s really different for Diwan, because when you love something or some place and feel it’s yours you criticize in a constructive way, you really care about improving it.

 1 2 3   Next page »   


You must be logged in to add tags.

Writer Profile
Yara Kassem

This user has not written anything in his panorama profile yet.

Raymond M. Kristiansen | Jul 2nd, 2004
I really liked this interview. The story of how they created Diwan is inspiring, and it is good to hear how cultural centres like these, established by just a few individuals, can have have more wide-spread influence in their city or country. Good job!

Shavkatjon | Jul 4th, 2004
thanks so much for sharing this article,it gave me a bit mroe of inspiration and lots of ideas on ym work on the same thign here in Tajikistan. It is amazing that I found exactly the same vision of keeping thigns/culture alive among your friends and people..I am looking forward to learning somemore news about Diwans current state... keep up your excellent work, Shokran, shavkat

You must be a TakingITGlobal member to post a comment. Sign up for free or login.