Friday, June 17, 2011

The Knowledge Taxis of Cairo

Egyptians on the whole are not big readers. So what's a bookstore to do to try and help shift the cultural attitudes toward books and get people reading?


Last year the ALEF Bookstores in Cairo came up with a brilliant idea. Since the streets of Cairo are in an almost continuous state of gridlock why not put books in the back of taxis so people can pass the time reading.

The initiative, called “Taxi of Knowledge,” launched with 50 cabs, each carrying 5 books.

Here's how it works:

All the books for the program have been donated.

The bookstore lends each taxi driver 5 books which they choose and can exchange at any time."Alef has tried to keep the books short so as not to intimidate readers. Books range from women’s health, to philosophy and comedy books. Some books are even about the revolution – whatever best suits the taxi driver and his passengers’ taste."

Aleph places review cards in each taxi that allows the passengers to comment on  the book selection and the driver's knowledge of them. People can also comment on the taxi's cleanliness and other non-book related taxi issues. Each month the bookstore awards two drivers a prize based on the reviews.


The program has been an astounding success. The fleet of cabs driving around Cairo with books is now up to around 200. By the end of the year the program hopes to have 2000 cabs in the mix. There is also been some interest in creating a similar program for the city's buses.

Hopefully, now that the Arab Spring is in full bloom, it won't be long for all 30,000 or so private taxis on the streets of Cairo to be book enabled.

Story at Almasry Alyoum, Taxi of Knowledge: Reading on the road
Dec 2010 piece from, Cairo taxi libraries a boon for clients in traffic jams
Al Arabiya News Nov 2010, Egypt bookstore launches 'Taxi of Knowledge'
and for our Arabic speaking friends here is a link to a 3+ minute documentary on the project

(Reposted from  Book Patrol.)

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