Arabic Literature (in English)

As explosions rock Baghdad, and dozens of individual souls die, it is becomes yet more difficult to think through the role of art. Nonetheless, art. A piece from this week’s special Egypt Independent* print edition:

Baghdad’s Al-Mutanabbi Street is perhaps the longest-lived book-selling neighborhood in the world. According to scholar Muhsin al-Musawi, the current bookshops on Al-Mutanabbi Street exist where, hundreds of years before, there was an Abbasid-era district of scribes’ markets and booksellers’ stalls.

This area was thriving at least by the time of the historian Ibn Tayfur (819–893). In this spot, books and book lovers were available in abundance until the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258.

The neighborhood eventually reclaimed its place at Baghdad’s cultural heart, and a number of important booksellers established shops once more on Mutanabbi Street. Stores began to blossom in the 19th and 20th centuries, when the saying “Cairo writes, Beirut publishes…

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