Books, Book Stores and Libraries in Qatar
There do not seem to be many books in Qatar, a fact which is not surprising when you consider that more books are read in Greece than in the whole of the Gulf. In fact, sometimes your spirits lift when you are about to enter into a bookstore, only to find out that in fact only stationary is sold. This is even the case with the University Book Store on Ahmed Bin Ali Street!
Still, the situation has improved dramatically since I first wrote this article eight months ago. At that time there were only were only two bookshops with a good selection of English books.
The first of these, Jarir Bookstore, is located on Salwa Road. It is a large store, and has a cafe on the ground floor. You will have to go upstairs to find the books though the first time I went in I thought there were no books, as downstairs is the usual stationary, computers, postcards and so on.
Turn off Salwa Road into the little side road that goes past Jareer bookstore, turn right, left, right and left again at the traffic lights onto Nasser Street and you will find Family Bookshop (close to the next set of traffic lights). Smaller and cosier than Jareer, Family bookstore still has a good selection of books (better than Jareer in some areas) perhaps because it is wholly dedicated towards books.
More recently I-Spy has opened up in City Centre (on the top floor near the ice-skating ring). It is very well laid out, with armchairs to relax while you browse, and a children's section with comfy cushions on the floor. You will also find Abu Karbal Bookshop on Bin Mahmood Street, although the majority of their selection are textbooks. The best selection of books is not in any of the dedicated bookshops but in Virgin Megastore in Villagio. The bookshop situation is set to improve still further, when Dubai chain Magrudy's opens a branch in Landmark Mall.
There is also the Qatar National Library. No, this is not the sci-fi building you will probably see if you do a search on the internet this has yet to be built. The current National Library is set in a pleasantly-old building. (This is something you appreciate after being here a while - old buildings are an endangered species in Qatar!) It is located on Ras Abu Aboud Street drive right to the end of the Corniche and take the first exit off the roundabout, go straight ahead and you will find it on the corner of the second roundabout you come across.
It's difficult to join you have to complete a form in Arabic, get it stamped by your employer and so on and so forth but anyone can wander in and start reading. Free newspapers are available downstairs, but go upstairs, through the doors ahead of you, turn left and walk round to the back and you will find the English section. Do not expect anything new, but there are treasures to be found. (There are signs asking to leave your books on the table which is exactly where I found them when I returned after a two week absence!)
Periodically, someone tries to set up a book club on Qatar Living, and it is worth posting a note there if you want to exchange books.