CAIRO: Visiting the old books market in Attaba, you’ll stumble on a variety of publications – new, old and rare – that will take hours to browse through. There are 133 outlets scattered in the area, but you’re bound to spend most of your time in one particular shop.
The store is practically a time capsule, with stocks of old newspapers like the dailies Al Ahram and Al Akhbar as well as weeklies such as Akher Sa’a and Al Musawar – all dating back to the period between 1930 and 1970.
Besides the well recognized names, you’ll be amazed to see dailies, weeklies and tabloids that once thrived but have since shut down. Today, they serve as chronicles of the past for researchers and valuable items for collectors.
Some of these are Ahl El Fan, El Ethnein, Kul Shei and Al Sabah, which focus on the lives of celebrities, some of whom are still alive today. Posters announcing the premieres of movies from Egypt’s golden era can also be seen in these publications.
You can only browse through these rare finds at the shop owned by Sayed Sadek El Kutubi and his brothers, whose great grandfather was the first to take the risk of selling magazines and newspapers in a market that’s known for used books.
The family trade started 150 years ago and the shop continues to attract famed artists, distinguished writers and media personalities. Business has boomed for all these years, and it depends largely on the Kutubis’ ability to get their hands on very old, rare publications. “So many people are fond of collecting these old magazines and newspapers, but in time, they run out of space and end up having to get rid of some of them. Some people buy or borrow items to use for a short while and then they give them back to us so others can have access to them, added El Kutubi.
“We have publications that date back to 1800. We can get you any old issue provided you give us the name of the publication and its date, promises El Kutubi.
Although anyone can get their hands on copies of these periodicals from the archives of reputed publishing houses, most people still turn to El Kutubi’s store to find what they’re looking for.
“At big publishing houses like Al Akhbar or Al Ahram, you will never be able to get the original, he said, “you just get a photocopy or a digital copy at a higher price. The majority of people who come here are keen to get the original. Moreover, some of the press houses that issued these publications no longer exist.
“People come to know [these newspapers or magazines] by seeing them in our shop. Even if they know them beforehand, it’s difficult to get in touch with people who have copies or copyrights, explained El Kutubi.
The price of these old publications ranges from LE 10 to LE 200, depending on the value of the issue itself.
“How old the issue is could either raise or lower the price, but what is more important than the question of age is the subject matter, he said.
“For example, the price of issues that covered the wedding ceremonies of King Farouk and Queen Farida, the late Shah of Iran and former Princess Fawzia or the funerals of former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat can sell for LE 200.
The same holds true for issues announcing the death of Um Kulthoum.
The strangest request he ever got was from an old woman who asked about a magazine published in 1912 featuring a picture of her father, who was a budding actor at the time