Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi will donate proceeds from her latest book to help rebuild a Gaza bookshop that was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in May.
The founder and chief executive of Kalimat Group and president of the International Publishers Association revealed on Twitter on Sunday that she would donate earnings from the first edition of World Book Capital toward efforts to restore the Samir Mansour Bookshop.
Sheikha Bodour’s donation follows her pledge earlier in May to support bookshops and libraries damaged in Gaza.
Founded more than two decades ago, the two-storey bookshop contained tens of thousands of books in several languages and served as a community centre in Gaza. The bookshop was levelled to ruin during the latest flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestine, during which at least 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
"We are grateful for the support of Sheikha Bodour,” the bookshop’s namesake owner and founder, Samir Mansour, told Wam.
“We believe in the power of books to empower generations, and I hope that such initiatives will enhance knowledge resources in the community and protect our collective identity and memory as we build a better and brighter future for our country. I am also grateful to all the readers who bought the first edition of World Book Capital as it has brought much-needed hope in the literary circles and everyday lives of the people of Gaza.”
Published in both Arabic and English by Kalimat Publishing, World Book Capital introduces young generations to the cities that have won the coveted Unesco World Book Capital title since 2001.
The book, which features illustrations by Denise Damanti, was launched in May at the 12th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival.
Sheikha Bodour’s donation is the latest humanitarian effort to rebuild the Samir Mansour Bookshop.
A fundraiser was organised in the week following the bookshop’s bombardment. Set up by human rights lawyers Mahvish Rukhsana and Clive Stafford Smith, the initiative has raised more than $240,000 in support of the bookstore.
Rukhsana reached out to Mansour after having a "visceral" reaction on seeing a photo of the bombed site.
"It wasn't just his bookstore," she told The National in June. "It was the medical bookstore next door and it was multiple bookstores and this whole street called University Avenue.
“Knowledge is a source of empowerment and a means of escape and I felt that, as a book lover myself, this was an easy way for everybody to tangibly feel how these people must have felt. It was such a huge loss.”
In June, Mansour told The National he was standing 200 metres from his shop when it was struck by a missile.
“I felt my soul leave my body when I saw the building come down,” he said, standing in the rubble of his bookshop with a tattered book in hand.
"What happened to me was a shock. The missile destroyed the bookshop and the whole building," he said. "This has been my life. I established it and built it. Forty years of work and in a split second, it's all gone."