Rabat, Morocco’s capital city, has a really rockin’ book culture. I discovered three enormous independent bookstores within blocks of each other, and many more stores as I explored the city, but those three seemed to be the premiers. I managed two visits to each, and each time all of them were absolutely packed. If any of them had been in Berlin, they would have been the best bookstore in the city by a long shot.
Librairie Kalila Wa Dimna organizes their Moroccan titles by publisher, always a big plus for me. Arabic books downstairs, French books upstairs, this massive independent is the size of a small Border’s or Thalia, but enormously more literary. These people are not in business to sell Arabic Harry Potter and French vampire novels (though they have those too…)
In Librairie Livre Service, the bookseller talked to me enthusiastically about new releases from Moroccan publishers; which were selling well, who to keep an eye on, how the books were related, his personal favorites, etc. “Ce mec,” he said pulling Mohamed Nedali’s La maison de Cicine from the shelf, “Ce mec peut ecrire!”
Livre Service is about the size of Kalila Wa Dimna. Like KWD, Livre Service is crawling with employees, presumably to stop you from stealing, but they also come in handy if you have a question, and you will, because you just don’t know enough about Moroccan book culture!
In Librairie des Belles Images, the bookseller was able to help me sort out who gets funding where, which publishers are branches of French publishers and which are actually based in Morocco. Basically, anything with attractive cover-design = not Moroccan (my words, not hers).
I should also mention that Rabat has an amazing arts culture in general. There is a beautiful new national library that was hosting a really stunning exhibition of works by Moroccan artist Bouchta El Hayani. At the art house 7ème Art, I saw an Arabic film with French subtitles. Go to Mohammed V Theater for live performances. Rabat was also the only Moroccan city I visited where I was not constantly harassed by men on the street. I witnessed peaceful demonstrations in solidarity with Egyptian protesters, and though the crowd was overwhelmingly male, I felt completely comfortable.
This text by Amanda DeMarco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.