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History

Providing books on the Middle East since 1978

In 1978, lifelong friends André Gaspard and Mai Ghoussoub resettled in London as a result of the Lebanese civil war and founded the Al Saqi bookshop. They yearned to recreate something of the heady intellectual freedom of pre-war Beirut, and to supply a then-untapped market for English and Arabic books on the Middle East and North Africa. The bookshop became a leading light of multicultural London during the 1980s, known for procuring books banned across the Arab world. Today, Al Saqi Books remains a treasure trove for readers from all walks of life.

André and Mai began publishing English-language works as Saqi Books in 1983. Five years later, a sister company Dar al Saqi was founded in Beirut to release in Arabic seminal titles of philosophy, Western thought and social theory, as well as original works of fiction by leading Arab authors who were often unable to get published in their own countries. Today multi-award-winning Dar al Saqi is one of the most prestigious publishing houses in the Arab world, publishing over a hundred titles a year.

Over the past thirty years, through releasing innovative and seminal works about the Middle East, North Africa and beyond in English and Arabic, Saqi has become a byword for the development and promotion of Middle Eastern culture. Our efforts to bring censored works and authors into the light are an important contribution to keeping the range of Middle Eastern writing diverse, alive and provocative. The inclusion of minority authors among our lists helps, we hope, to demolish cultural barriers that might otherwise reinforce political or geographic ones.

  • ‘A list of exceptional writers’

    The Guardian
  • ‘Anyone interested in Arab culture is aware of the invaluable role Saqi plays in making available pioneering, specialist and often controversial books that large publishers refuse to go near.’

    The Times