The bookseller strolling around his stand.
"The kiosk is known as “the downtown bookstand” and has been around “since the invention of the printing press”, according to the bookseller that tends it." © Munir Atalla
The bookseller strolling around his stand.
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Last updated: April 29, 2013

The bookseller in Amman

Amman’s oldest bookstore isn’t quite a store - more of a stand really, where the books are stacked in the boxy disorder reminiscent of the city’s stone houses.

The kiosk is known as “the downtown bookstand” and has been around “since the invention of the printing press”, according to the bookseller that tends it. The “librarian” tells me that the stand has been in his family since Amman was a known city. He is a wiry man with his stringy hair gathered in a grey ponytail that hangs halfway down his back. He seems like he does better with books than with people. As we talk, a man walks by and asks for a collection of Darwish poems. The bookseller paces the circumference of the stand apprehensively and then delves in, excavating the requested volume. After the transaction, he retreats into a nook at the heart of the kiosk where he avoids the noontime sun and flips through a tattered book.

It is rumoured that the downtown bookstand can locate any book imaginable and have it delivered within three weeks, often difficult in Jordan where online shopping hasn’t completely caught on yet.

Munir Atalla
Munir is a Palestinian-Jordanian currently at Tufts University. He is a columnist at OpenDemocracy. Munir worked as an intern at the Your Middle East office during the summer of 2012.
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