“When I visited America back in 2013, I was really amazed by the crowded libraries, reading corners, and assiduous readers who were holding books everywhere in the streets, buses, trains and even in restrooms – something that made me realize that the most powerful nations are armed with books. I felt the responsibility to read more myself and to do something to eliminate the underestimation of reading in Yemen.”
~ Mohammed AlAmoudi, Founder of Yemen Reads
What started as a simple Facebook post became one of the most successful cultural projects in Sana’a. Mohammed Al Amoudi–Founder of Yemen Reads–along with his Executive Manager Hamza AlHemyari, succeeded in bringing people’s “dead” books back to life.
The idea of the project was to establish a number of open libraries that would be filled with books of different genres – all donated – and completely free of charge. No guards or supervisors would take care of these stations; it was solely the readers’ responsibility to take and return the reading material. “We are trying to build a form of trust between the book and its reader,” Hamza said. He strongly believes that a book should be returned because the reader wants to and not because he has to. Small boxes were also placed beside the libraries, dedicated only to donations inspired by the projects motto “Give Your Book A New Life”. Many Yemenis took interest in this particular idea and generously donated their books. The Yemeni poet and writer, Dr. AbdulAziz AlMaqaleh, alone donated 3000 books to the Yemen Reads library.
“I have donated a number of books from my father’s library. I have already benefitted from them, why not give a chance for others too!” Abdulaziz alma’mary, books donor
The main goal of the project is to highlight the role that a book plays in a community (similar to that of the Yemeni community). Also, it thrives to fill the intellectual gap between Yemen and the outside world. The project also aims at introducing the concept of public libraries and raising the notion of sharing books for community development.
In less than a month, Mohammed, Hamza and their team of volunteers made the idea a reality. They filtered all donated books, leaving out all religious and political ones to avoid any form of controversy. The stations were designed and distributed, and the project was an immediate success. The launching ceremony took place on March 23 rd of the current year and was recognized both, locally and internationally. “We faced zero obstacles,” said Hamza, “and this only proves that the Yemeni community despite the war, is always open to growth and development,” he added.
“Yemen Reads project is a very beautiful attempt at reviving the concept of reading. One book that I have always looked for I have found there!” Safia
On their next move, Hamza hopes that they will soon be able to establish a total of 200 libraries, Qat markets included. As for future hopes, he aspires that their goal is to reach Yemen in its entirety and not only the capital.
The Yemen Reads project is not a new project and has been implemented in many other countries, such as the Netherlands. However, in Yemen it was the first of its kind and, thus, has gained a lot of recognition from media and society. It is thought by some people that this project is a “spur of the moment thing” and (given the circumstances of the Yemeni society) won’t last and will slowly disappear. After few months, however, Hamza headed to Palm Complex and chose a table next to the library he helped create. The good news was that many people came to either pick a book, donate one, or merely check the contents of the cabin. The point is, there is always hope in Yemen, just keep reading!