Libyans find old treasures at Tripoli book sale

Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:51am EDT
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By Ghaith Shennib

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Flicking through an old book about Libyan history he never imagined he could buy under Muammar Gaddafi, Ashraf Hussein points to a picture of Tripoli's main square in the 1920s.

"This is where we are standing now, Martyrs Square. Back then it was called Piazza Roma," the 31-year old history masters student said, referring to Libya's Italian colonial days.

"Such books were forbidden before because they told the true history of Libya - Gaddafi did not want that. I bought many such books today."

Hussein was one of the hundreds of Libyans who descended on the capital's Martyrs Square this week to browse through thousands of books in Tripoli's first major second hand book sale after the 2011 war that ousted Gaddafi.

With live traditional music in the background, the crowd huddled around tables, perused and bought books about history, philosophy, geography, poetry, cooking, martial arts and novels.

Organizers of the three-day fair, who will use the funds to build a mobile library that will visit schools, said Western books sold out first on the first day - namely the "Harry Potter" collection.

After a busy first day, they had to cancel the morning opening hours of the fair to make sure there were enough books in the busier evening hours.

"The number of visitors exceeded expectations and there were less and less books," said 25-year old Rami al-Shaheibi, who donated some books. "Now we know Libyans are eager for these books. Next time, we will try to provide more, especially English novels and those from other Western cultures."   Continued...