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Picture Story: Cairo International Book Fair 2010



One of my most memorable childhood memories was taking the trip to the library with my mother to get an official library card. I was a regular at our local community library and went there nearly every day of the summer break for many years, mastering the art of reading and walking. The library was my home away from home. The highlight of every week was receiving my BookIt reading award certificate and then going to Pizza Hut for my prize and my dream job at the age of seven became to be a librarian.

Some famous lines of poetry say,

What a great speaker and companion the book is!

You can seclude yourself with it if your friends bore you;

It does not reveal your secrets, and is not arrogant,

And you can gain from it wisdom and uprightness.

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Of the greatest things I was looking forward to after moving to Cairo was their annual book fair. Every student I met here has told me how it is an amazing experience and how every year it seems to get better mashaAllah.

The Cairo International Book Fair (or the ma`ardh in Arabic) is the oldest and largest book fair in the Arab world. It takes place every year around mid or late January for about two weeks near Al-Azhar University in Madinat Nasr. It has nearly 3000 exhibits and is estimated to attract more than two million visitors.

After making a total of five trips in less than two weeks, this book fair has jumped to the top of my list of the best things I’ve experienced in young life after visiting the House of Allah and the masjid of the Prophet (alayhi salaatu wa salaam), wa lillahil hamd. The reason it affected me so much was not because of the amount of books or my excitement to finally purchase some classic works, but it was seeing the eagerness of men, women and children to increase their knowledge. It was the happiness I felt of being just another lover of books in the company of thousands. It moved my heart to see, albeit a small portion of this Ummah, following the first revelation of Allah: Read!

My most memorable moment was when my friends and I were trying to find some books by Shaykh Sayid Al-‘Aafaani (hafidhahullah). We asked the clerk at the stall if they carried any of his books, to which he said no, and then we asked him if he knew where we could find those books. The clerk started thinking and then out of nowhere an older man who was also looking at some books turns to us and says, “I’m Sayid ‘Aafaani, you can find that book in building number four at so-and-so stall.” My friends and I simply stared in shock for a good five seconds without saying a word. Finally, one of us snapped out of it and she asked him for directions to the building which he kindly gave us. I happened to see him on Thursday when I went to his stall again, he was visited by many brothers and what I loved most was that he was always making dhikr when he wasn’t speaking. May Allah preserve him and the scholars!

Shaykh Abu Eesa Niamatullah who I also happened to pass at the book fair shares his experience:

It is quite simply mind-boggling. Effectively all of the world’s Arabic book publishers come down for a couple of weeks with all their key stock and all their latest releases, prints, authenticated versions etc.

It’s nothing but books, books, and then more wonderful, amazing, gratifying, delightful…books. Seriously, it’s the playground of the scholars (and there are plenty of them walking round, it’s like spotting the celebrity!) and when you enter and walk around, you start to really feel like a kid again in a sweet shop.

The other wonderful aspect to the fair is the amount of people. Thousands! And most of them very “practising” masha’Allah which really adds a great feel to the place as a whole.

And so I just wanted to say that this is the greatest show I’ve ever seen where you can just pick up any book you’ve dreamt of, for excellent prices, in one place at the one time.

And now…to display the goods :) A simple warning to my fellow book worms before you scroll down: you may begin to salivate.

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Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.



  1. AnonyMouse

    February 13, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    I wanted to go so badly… and couldn’t!!!!!!!!!!! My husband went, though, and came back looking like he was walking on clouds, lol…
    QaddarAllah wa maa shaa fa’al… insha’Allah next year… or another time :)

    • Amatullah

      February 13, 2010 at 10:36 AM

      aww SubhanAllah! lol walking on clouds is right! It’s so annoying getting there with the traffic and taxis, but I just kept going back. InshaAllah I hope you get to go soon :) Speaking of which, I lost your number can you email it to me again sis :)

      My brother said that he would come back to Egypt every year just for the book fair…it’s that awesome.

  2. SisAnon

    February 13, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    Ahh book fairs! Love em to bits! This one seems so neat masha’Allah.

    I love the picture of the books that are set out in a spiral-like fashion. Very cool!

  3. Abd- Allah

    February 13, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    where you can just pick up any book you’ve dreamt of, for excellent prices, in one place at the one time.

    SubhanAllah, I’ve heard a lot about this book fair from many people. I ask Allah to enable me to attend it one day.

    The only thing that worries me is, going into the fair and being surrounded by hundreds of great books which I have always dreamed of having, how does one controls himself from buying too many books or more books than he can handle or carry? Or is there such a thing as buying too many books?

    • Amatullah

      February 13, 2010 at 4:25 PM

      The advice I got was that you should take a book list with you before you even go to gauge how many books you want to purchase. Going without a book list is not a good idea because you will buy anything and everything. The list helps you stay focused and only look for those books you need in your library. Of course you’ll get a few things here and there that you didn’t plan on buying, but the list will basically help you stay focused while being surrounded by the fitnah.

      Another thing to remember for us who are going back is shipping :( Allahul Musta’aan, that will cut your list in half lol. As cheap it is to buy these books, you’ll feel the hit later when you want to ship them back. So another important tip when buying books is to always get the essentials..Those that you won’t be able to find back home and those that are must have references. I would ask myself if I really NEEDED this book, what benefit I could take from it, if I already had a book on that topic and so on.

      Regarding the carrying…the first day we went, my brother and I purchased a 9 volume set and he was carrying it alone and we passed by this brother who came with one of those rolling suitcases and we both thought: wow that is smart mashaAllah! lol so we were prepared next time. MashaAllah it was really awesome seeing many students of knowledge coming with their suitcases and trollies carrying their books. I saw a few carrying them on their head as well.

      As for buying too many books…I personally don’t think there’s such a thing, as long as they are not sitting on a bookshelf for show collecting dust.

      but then again, you’re asking someone who wanted to be a librarian…so…Allahu ta’ala a’lam!

      may Allah ta’ala facilitate it for you.

      • Abd- Allah

        February 13, 2010 at 4:45 PM

        True, having a list of the books that you need is helpful. Also taking with you just enough money to buy the books on your list only, especially if you are one of those people who find it hard to stick to the list.

        Yes! Never forget that you have to ship the books back! Last time I bought books, I somehow forgot that I have to ship them back and only remembered shipping after I had bought more books than I can fit in my bags. I ended up having to pay extra to ship the books, but overall I think it was worth it, because the price for the books including shipping was still relatively cheaper than back here in the US, not to mention that most of the books I got are hard to find here in the US, especially the books in Arabic.

  4. Yus from the Nati

    February 13, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    You have got to be an 80’s baby with that BookIt recollection! That’s so throwback! We used to have the same thing, with the pizzahut parties, and having to buy books out that catalog thing.

    • Amatullah

      February 13, 2010 at 4:25 PM

      the scholastic catalog. those were the days.

      • Muslim Apple

        February 14, 2010 at 7:33 AM

        I loved the Scholastic catalog and BookIt! Inculcating the love of reading in the young is such a precious gift, indeed.

      • Associates

        February 14, 2010 at 11:29 AM

        The Scholastic catalog was awesome!! Some of my favorite memories from my NY Public School days were when, towards the end of the day, a large box would be delivered to the room with “Scholastic” printed on the side of it. We would all eagerly anticipate cutting class short by a few minutes to distribute the items everyone purchased.

        Just thinking about it gets me excited :D :D :D :D

        • SisAnon

          February 14, 2010 at 5:32 PM

          Haha, good to know I’m not the only Scholastic junkie. Luckily I’m a teacher now so I get to relive that excitement of books coming for my kiddos. : )

  5. TheAlexandrian

    February 14, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    SubhanAllah, this event will DEFINITELY be on my itinerary for next year inshAllah. To be honest though, I’ll probably mostly do some window shopping. I have a nasty habit of, as you said, letting books sit on the shelf and collect dust. So I think I’d have to limit my purchases to only two or three books (given that you had to resort to getting a suitcase, I can imagine your jaw dropping at such an absurd idea :P )

    • Amatullah

      February 15, 2010 at 3:41 AM

      lol, actually I only took a backpack the next time. Suitcases are for the serious students mashaAllah. The amount of books is definitely overwhelming at first.

      I found that the best books to buy are actually the heart softeners and reminders. They are the most beneficial, easy to carry and you can’t find them online (reference books are online).

  6. Abdullah

    February 14, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    Alhamdulillah, this year I had the chance to visit the Cairo book fair for the first time. It was awesome! I won’t forget the scene on the first day right after Jum’ah when thousands of men and women were waiting outside the مَعْرِض. It was a site to register in your long term memory. Thousands of brothers in beards and thobes (above ankles) and women in niqab patiently waiting to go inside and grab their favorite books; a picture that can be taken in Cairo only once every year.

    My entire trip to Cairo (from Alexandria) was full of lessons. I had seen hundreds of brothers and sisters rushing to the book fair via whatever means of transportation they could afford. I was reminded once again how insignificant I am in the sight of Allah amongst all these sincere people. I had also come to realize how far I am from seeking knowledge and its implementation. I’m still a novice and am still struggling to read books in Arabic. So, there I was lost amongst books that I wanted to buy and bring home so that perhaps one day (in the near future) I would be able to benefit from them. I was lost amongst thousands of students of knowledge who traveled from around the world to buy the books they had been longing for so long. Many poor students saved up throughout the year to be able to buy their favourite books. And there I was with enormous blessings of Allah – being able to afford many books but not really able to benefit from them.

    I pray that Allah (SWT) blesses us all with the sincerity to seek knowledge and practice what we learn.

    Wassalamu ‘Alaykum.

    • Abd- Allah

      February 14, 2010 at 4:12 PM

      SubhanAllah! JazakAllah khayr akhi Abdullah for sharing your experience with us. May Allah make it easy for you in your path to seek beneficial knowledge, and I would like to share with you this hadith that might help you in your journey:

      It was narrated that Qays ibn Katheer said: “A man came from Madeenah to Abu’l-Darda’ in Damascus and he said, ‘What brought you here, my brother?’ He said, ‘A hadeeth which I have heard that you narrate from the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’ He said, ‘Have you come for any other reason?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Have you come for trade?’ He said, ‘No. I have only come to seek this hadeeth.’ He said, ‘I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, “Whoever follows a path to seek knowledge, Allaah will make easy for him the path to Paradise. The angels beat their wings in approval of the seeker of knowledge, and those who are in the heavens and on earth pray for forgiveness for the scholar, even the fish in the water. The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like the superiority of the moon over all other heavenly bodies. The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, for the Prophets did not leave behind dinars or dirhams, rather they left behind knowledge, so whoever gains knowledge has gained great good fortune.’” (narrated by al-Tirmidhi; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani).

    • Amatullah

      February 15, 2010 at 12:22 AM

      Baarak Allahu feek brother Abdullah for sharing such a beautiful reflection.

      Thousands of brothers in beards and thobes (above ankles) and women in niqab patiently waiting to go inside and grab their favorite books

      That was amazing.

  7. sahardid

    February 14, 2010 at 6:08 PM

    Wow!! I can’t believe I just asked my friend to bring me back an arabic-english dictionary, while there is some much more.

  8. ummabdullah

    February 15, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    im originally from the muslim community in avid reader..and now living in cairo and I’d be really intersted in getting touch with some of the sisters on here who said they’re in cairo i believe?

  9. ummabdullah

    February 15, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Oh yeh i forget..I also attended the book fair in Cairo this year. My husband and I go on the last day and get great deals. I mainly go for children’s English books since I don’t know arabic yet and can’t benefit from the books just yet. However, even for the english books..the collection is prettty good.

    I’ve been able to find great fiction/science related books for my two young children , ages 5 and under.

    • Amatullah

      February 15, 2010 at 3:37 PM

      Umm Abdullah,

      InshaAllah please send an email to: and I will respond to you.

      This is great alhamdulillah! I remembered that you were here when I was leaving but I didn’t have your contact info. We have halaqat and other gatherings for sisters here (we just finished one on Araba’een Nawawi alhamdulillah), we would love for you to join us.

      Jazaki Allahu khayran!

  10. Pingback: Cairo International Book Fair 2010 « Guide to Muslim Children's Books and Media

  11. New Madinah Student

    February 16, 2010 at 1:23 AM


    This is an old book list that was compiled by sheikh Navaid when I was in Madinah. Some of the new students may find benefit in it.

    • sahardid

      February 16, 2010 at 4:06 PM

      update it :-)

      2 more years of book reading is missing :D

  12. UmmOusama

    February 16, 2010 at 4:16 AM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    The book fair is indeed a must to go, even if you only speak English and are looking for Islamic books. Darussalam was giving 40% off English books and 50% off Arabic books. IIPH was also there with good reductions.

    Personally, I am looking more for reference books from there or “series”. Unfortunately, I could only go once. Yes, have a list but be open too.

    As for the budget, I wouldn’t worry about that. Stretch your budget for it as it is money spent in the way of Allah and Allah will provide for you.

    As for the above sister who lives in Cairo, I don’t know how to contact you. I live outside Cairo itself but not far though.

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