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Emirati Starts Corniche Book Swap to Encourage Reading

Melanie Swan, The National
April 13, 2015

Faisal Mohammed is a man on a mission to get people to put down smartphones and to pick up books instead.

The Emirati has helped to set up two swap boxes on the Corniche where readers can drop off old books and pick up new ones free of charge. 

The 38-year-old said: “Before I did this my children at home were not reading, just sitting on the phone and iPad. With all this technology our children have stopped reading. I had seen the book exchange in the UK and US so I wanted to do this so I could help encourage people to read. 

“It’s important to read and I want to express that importance. The first word in the Quran is ‘read’ [Eqra] so reading is something good, something important.”

Mr. Mohammed, an engineer, aims to have about 60 publications available in each box, including magazines and journals.

The idea is to bring a book and take one, said Mr. Mohammed. “The idea is just sharing books.”

He has about 400 books donated from across the emirates. Most are in Arabic, but he also hopes English titles will become available. 

“The idea is to provide the public with all different books, stories, poetry, science,” he said.

Nawaf Ghobash helped to pay for two weather-resistant boxes.

“It’s always good to support these kinds of initiatives,” he said. “I had seen this in Europe so I knew it was a great idea. The intention now is to formalise it into a foundation or charity so we can expand. There is so much potential to have them in parks, hospitals, other public places and other emirates, in places like the Abu Dhabi Corniche, JBR. We just need the support of people, such as the Ministry of Education . . . so we can spread the message that reading is important.” 

Mr. Mohammed said it was important to make sure books were appropriate for all ages. 

“There are books not allowed in the UAE so we need to make sure this is respected – things like politics and religion,” he said.

Dr. Natasha Ridge, head of research at the Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in [Ras Al Khaimah], supported the initiative. 

“Anything that encourages reading, I’m very in favour of, especially when it’s by Emiratis for Emiratis,” she said. 

“When it’s your own people not only saying it but facilitating it as well, it’s wonderful. There aren’t many libraries or book shops, so this makes books more accessible to people from all walks of life. It’s very inspirational and innovative to put it in a public place like the Corniche, which is well visited. People are there nightly, and it’s busy at weekends so they can just happen to find it.”