by Paola Pirovano
Since few days, there’s a new bookstore amongst the canals of Amsterdam. It’s called Pages Bookstore Café, it’s run by Syrian refugee Samer Al-Kadri and it’s the only one in the city specialized in Arabic-language editions.
The logo perfectly represents the atmosphere in the bookstore: it is both a steaming cup of coffee, books and an open hand, three images to symbolize the openness and inspiration behind the creation of Pages.
Samer Al-Kadri firmly believes in the power of books and culture: as an artist and illustrator, he founded the children books publisher Bright Fingers with his wife back in Damascus in 2004.
The Syrian war and increasing harassment from the government forced the couple to flee out of the country with their children. They became refugees in Turkey. In 2013 the first Istanbul-based Arabic bookshop opened its doors. Samer’s dream is to share Syrian and Arab cultural richness and therefore created a place to meet and discover.
The same principle can be found at the Pages bookstore in Amsterdam: a cultural centre, with its doors always open to everyone.
Mainly consecrated to the Arabic language, Pages is also a place where Syrian refugees can find books in their own language. The bookshop also hosts a selection of books in Turkish and its plan is to translate some of its publications in English and Dutch. This is a project aimed at sharing the richness of Arab and Syrian culture and literature, often unknown in Europe, and to change the negative perceptions of many towards aylum seekers.
Samer Al-Kadri, who has been granted the political refugee status in the Netherlands, seeks to emphasize the importance of cultural exchange and the pleasure of mutual knowledge. An approach to different cultures that can begin with books, music and art.
However, the location on the Herengracht is only temporary: Pages Bookstore Café is hosted for few months by the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, which is the founder of the initiative.
Created in 1996, this Dutch institution promotes and supports projects and artists in areas where freedom of cultural expression is in danger.