Nadia Wassef, one of the owners and co-founders of Diwan, Egypt’s first modern bookshop, has shared her industry experience in a keynote at the Sharjah International Booksellers Conference 2022

In her speech, Nadia recounted the story of Diwan, Egypt’s leading bookseller and the country’s first modern bookshop. Diwan was founded in 2002, offering its visitors something new: aside from books, music, films and stationery, customers had a chance to enjoy a relaxing break in the bookshop’s café.

Since its founding two decades ago, Diwan has gone through many challenges and various transformations, but it has always stayed true to its values, placing great importance on its character and identity. In her keynote, Nadia stressed just how important it is for a bookshop to be conscious of its identity and to find effective ways of sharing it with potential customers: “The export of our identities to our readers, customers, target audiences, through whichever means we can enlist, engenders a realization about the role of booksellers: we don’t just sell books; we strike up conversations.”

The emphasis that Diwan places on readers and on creating a dialogue is also reflected in the selection and training of its staff: “Our greatest asset, as booksellers, isn’t the choices we make about which books we line our shelves with, but the people we choose to champion them. The booksellers we in our turn recruit, train, and empower are vital to our ecosystems.”

And what does the owner of Diwan advise to other booksellers? “My advice will always be to take the gamble of innovation because it is the only insurance policy against the future worth having. Develop your bookstore’s identity in an unexpected way, surprise yourself and your reader.”

Read the full speech given by Nadia Wassef at the recent International Booksellers Conference in Sharjah