You know that good old chain of library stores across the UAE called Archie’s? Most of them have shut down now. There was a time they were the pinnacle of entertainment though.
Every week, you’d prance into the dimly lit room, shelves everywhere you look stacked with yellowing and dusty paperbacks, as if you were walking through the doors of Disneyland.
The stale aroma of dust, old ink and adventure in the air, what would you pick up – Goosebumps, Enid Blyton [Secret Seven], Agatha Christie or a timeless Archie comic?
Bibliophiles, in case the world runs out of paper or digital takes over print, you have a rare chance to hop on a ride to fictional worlds with the fuel of language – for free.
Here are 5 places where you don’t have to buy an espresso, a meal or even a book to lounge and read and read for free in UAE:
1. Dubai International Writers’ Centre, Shindagha Historical Neighborhood
Little-known, cozy and shelves heaped with books to the very top, DIWC houses 2 different libraries open to the community – Arabic and English, and meeting rooms of various sizes.
You can walk in, browse at leisure and kick back with a book any time you want – Make sure you call and check there are no writing classes at the same time.
When: Open 9am-9pm, Saturday to Thursday
Where: House No. 290, Al Shindagha Historical Neighbourhood – Al Khaleej Rd – Dubai
Nearby F&B: Costa Coffee
Call 04 355 9844 for group reservations.
2. A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue
A well-known open contemporary space with Appetite Café underneath, with lounging chairs, sofas and beanbags included. Best part? You don’t need reservations to pop by and read artsy books.
When: Open 10am-7pm, Saturday to Thursday
Where: Street 8 – Al Quoz 1 – Dubai
Nearby F&B: Appetite Café
Call 050 556 9797.
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3. Dubai Public Libraries
Many have heard of these elusive locations, few have tried them out. A little bird tells us that they’re all getting a modern makeover. With a mix of Arabic cultural and historical collections and instructional English titles, the public libraries are worth a visit, if only for their authenticity.
Al Ras Library, Baniyas Road
Hor Al Anz Library, Al-Wuheida Road
Rashediah Library, Al-Rashidya
Al Towar Library, Al-Twar
Al Safa Library
Um Suqaim Library
When: Open 8am to 9pm, Sunday to Thursday
Call 04 348 2512
4. The Old Library, DUCTAC
Romance, sci-fi, teen fiction, classics and adult fiction – it’s all here. This volunteer-run space is happy to house quiet readers. Their membership fees are as low as AED200 per year [half a Netflix subscription] and allow you to choose from 20,000 titles.
Watch out for Sunday mornings and Wednesday afternoons – They have toddler’s story time then and the space is booked.
When: Open 10am-6pm, Saturday to Thursday
Where: DUCTAC Courtyard, MOE
Nearby F&B: More Café
Call (+971 4) 341 4777 Ext 207.
Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
5. Book World by Kinokuniya
Originally a Japanese retail book store, recognized among tourists and residents alike, this space is a quiet zone for readers to explore fiction, science, self-help, historic, art, culture, dance, health, travel, anime, comic and comedy books.. and a lot more, for free.
When: Open 10am to 6:30pm, Sunday to Thursday, except Public Holidays
Where: Dubai Mall
Nearby F&B: Kino’s Café [their original teas are quite refreshing]
6. Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah
A NPO creative space that houses exhibitions of local and Middle Eastern artists, along with multi-media facilities, head down to Maraya for a comfortable and lively place to explore art books.
When: Open 10am to 10pm, Saturday to Thursday. 4pm to 10pm on Fridays.
Where: Block E, Al Qasba
Nearby F&B: Attibassi Coffee
Call +971 6 556 6555.
7. The Space
With separate work stations arranged around a long vertical work table, this common creative space is meant to foster community and entrepreneurial spirit. With selected magazine collections, art books and a café, this is a fitting nest for bilbliophiles.
When: 8am to 8pm, Sunday to Thursday
Where: TwoFour54, Abu Dhabi
Nearby F&B: Nathalie’s Restaurant & Cafe
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Have you been to any of these cafes? Do you know other spots to curl up with a book? Tell us in the comments below.