In 2002, Egypt witnessed the launch of the first Diwan bookstore in Zamalek, creating a whole new world for bookworms, tapping into a great market gap. Diwan refueled and injected a ‘book culture’ into Egypt that no one ever anticipated, when five friends Hind and Nadia Wassef, Nihal Shawky, Ali Dessouki, and Ziad Bahaa El Din decided to offer Egyptians a cozy place to shop and read.
Diwan Bookstore transformed buying a book into a cultural retail experience, maintaining strong customer relations and an excellent variety. We met with the owners to tell us all about their success story.
How did it all begin?
We wanted a bookstore with a high-quality shopping experience with staff who would know what the client wants. We have a browsing service which is one of the key components that make Diwan Bookstore a retail experience. Everyone at Diwan receives perfect training before they begin, in order to be aware of any customer needs. We also wanted a bookstore that manages events almost every week with local and international authors from book launches and author signings to children's storytelling.
You launched Diwan when very few seemed to read in Egypt, how did you promote the bookstore?
We didn’t believe in doing public relations for Diwan, it all happened by word of mouth and we did well through that. By the way people used to read and one should never under estimate the clientele.
How did Citadel Capital invest in Diwan?
The success of Diwan grabbed the notice of Citadel Capital, a private equity firm based in Cairo which invested into the chain by buying a 40 percent stake in the company. This allowed Diwan to expand to its current position as the market leader opening ten branches in eight years.
Tell us about the Multimedia and Children’s sections.
The Multimedia section at Diwan offers various types of music including niche music of up-and-coming local talents that might not be available for Internet downloads. Well the sales of the Multimedia Section aren’t doing extremely well as many people just go and download their music. What we offer exclusively is compilations of innovative designs and some original music like that of El Dor El Awal and Oriental Jazz. The Children’s section offers Children Book reading. Children never had the chance of getting what they want from books before, but today, the quality of books are way better than before and we have all the latest. Children don’t like reading the repeated stuff like Pharonic history for example, they want fiction and it’s very important for their imagination.
Who decides on book recommendations and bestsellers?
There is an internal committee that we do every month in which the staff meets up and decides what goes under the category of bestsellers and recommendations. We are no literary critics but we always sense what grabs our customer’s attention.
Who are the bestselling Egyptian authors?
The best selling Egyptian books are those of Galal Amin, Alaa El Aswany, Khaled El Khamisi and Bahaa Taher. As for female writers, there aren’t much bestselling authors but Ahdaf Souief and Elizabeth Gilbert, of the book ‘Eat, Pray, love’, are doing very well.
For a good book on the beach, visit the latest branch of Diwan in Diplomasyeen Village, North Coast.