Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Munzer's Book Shop

For most international visitors to East Jerusalem, Munzer's Book Shop at the American Colony Hotel is an oasis away from the frenetic activity, gossip and wheeling-and-dealing of Middle East politics. This narrow shop, tucked away in a classic Jerusalem style room of rough hewn stone with a domed roof, is a place where people come to browse books specialized in Middle East history, literature and politics. People also come to chat with Munzer Fahmy, the owner of this institution. Talks with him can range rapidly over current politics, visitors to the hotel, and the books themselves.

Munzer, a Jerusalemite from the Old City, and partly of Egyptian stock, got the idea to open up the bookstore through a circuitous road. After learning about the book business in the Netherlands, Munzer attended a book fair in Tel Aviv where he realized that people were disappointed by the predictable and shallow selection being presented. He decided to put on his first book fair at the Zionist Organization of America in Tel Aviv.

Success spurred him to try his luck in his home town, and so he moved his enterpreneurship to the Hyatt Regency in Jerusalem. Someone there suggested to him that his next book fair should be at the elegant Pasha Room of the American Colony Hotel - the nexus of hobnobbing for journalist and diplomats. And so he did. And at that event, another individual in the relay proposed that he open up a shop in the American Colony - another idea which he successfully acted on. And so it was.
The shop has been open since 1998 and beyond the Middle Eastern materials on sale, one can find everything from the latest South African literature to the poetic verses of an Afghan Sufi. The book store is the perfect addendum to the hotel: a conversation there about Jerusalem can lead to the purchase of a book on the city.

The shop's success and popularity goes on, and after much seeking, Munzer  continues to enjoy meeting and speaking with all comers to his shop.

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