Mr. Samer al-Qadri and his wife Mrs. Glennar Hajo came to Istanbul in 2012 after the Syrian police had raided their Publishing house, Bright Fingers, back in Damascus, leaving most of their property and books behind with no chance of coming back. After almost a year in Istanbul, Mr. Al-Qadri could not find any Arabic library or cultural centre for Arabs. Having some experience in the field, he and his wife decided to open a bookstore called Pages in the Fatih district of Istanbul. It’s more than just a bookstore, It represents a forum for lovers of art and culture of both Arabs and Turks.
The bookstore has three floors, one for children’s books, one for adults and the last one for reading and organising workshops or holding one of the store’s events, in addition to a small café for visitors. Of course, Mr. Al-Qadri and his wife could not afford this bookstore alone, they partnered with six Arabs and one Turk to properly fund the project, and they have a few volunteers to help run the café. What makes this bookstore unique is that selling books is not the priority, as customers are accustomed to read inside the store or borrow the books for a nominal amount of money, so most of the partners do not rely on the store for income, as each have their own side business.
Mr. Al-Qadri commissioned a Turkish printing house to republish the works of his publishing house in Damascus. Also he started enriching his book collection with new additions in scientific and literary fields through his friends, the owners of foreign publishing houses. He also began translating a large part of the books into other languages, most importantly the Turkish language, to achieve the idea of integrating the Syrian community into the host country. Mr. Qadri aspires to highlight all aspects of Syrian culture instead of the images of war and refuge that are lingering in the minds of the Turkish society. For him, “the most important thing is to provide a forum for Arab culture from different countries, we want to be a cultural centre that offers readings, concerts, workshops and seminars – with Arab people from Istanbul as well as from abroad”. Mr. Al-Qadri soon hopes to open a bilingual publishing house, in Arabic and Turkish, to bridge the language gap between the two cultures and deepen their communication.
Web Page; pagesbookstorecafe.com/istanbul