By Sinan Salaheddin
Ali al-Moussawi, the owner of a mobile library truck, arranges his books on a street in Baghdad, Iraq. The mobile bookstore is the latest in a series of efforts by the 25-year-old to share his passion for reading and revive a love for books in Baghdad, which was once the literary capital of the Muslim world.
The Iraqis guarding Baghdad’s many checkpoints, on the lookout for car bombs and convoys, don’t know what to make of Ali al-Moussawi when he pulls up in a truck displaying shelves of glossy books. The mobile bookstore is the latest in a series of efforts by the 25-year-old to share his passion for reading and revive a love for books in Baghdad, which was once the literary capital of the Muslim world. It began with “Iraqi Bookish,” a Facebook group for readers launched in 2015. He eventually started organizing book clubs, contests, signings and writing seminars held at cultural centers and cafes. “I adore reading,” said al-Moussawi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English translation. “I have long wanted to meet people like me, so I was thinking of creating something where all readers could gather at any time, regardless of where they are.” He eventually took to selling books in order to finance the cultural activities, opening a bookstand in a Baghdad mall that offers a delivery service and designing shelves and other book-themed gifts. Now he finds himself steering a bookstore on wheels through Baghdad’s snarled traffic, past its checkpoints, barbed wire and blast walls.
The world’s greatest poets flocked to Baghdad after it was established as the capital of the Abbasid Empire in the 8th century A.D., but its cultural flowering ended with the Mongol conquest of 1258. Iraq’s modern education system, richly financed by oil wealth in the 1970s, was subsequently decimated by years of war and sanctions.
Al-Moussawi has found plenty of customers. He says his business brings in a monthly income of up to $4,000, and that he has hired four paid workers.
(Extracted from abcnews.go.com)