January 13, 2023

45 cafes engage in the adventure of the «literary partner» in Saudi Arabia

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An initiative that initiated the prospects of partnership with the private sector


A café that now exists in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, operating within the framework of the “Literary Partner Initiative” launched by the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission of the Ministry of Culture. In December alone, these cafes across the globe saw more than 200 activities. What is remarkable is the number of attendees, which is increasing. The initiative pays off thanks to the continuous support and care of the body that supervises, follows up and encourages. Participating cafes compete for prizes totaling SAR 900,000 per year and support benefits, all depending on the number and quality of activities, and their effectiveness. Which motivates these cafes to diligence.

The door is open to new partnerships, from cafes that meet the required initial conditions, while the Authority provides assistance and support in many ways.

“At first glance, the competition and competition were the passion and motivation for us to continue and provide the best in the literary partner initiative,” says journalist Saud Abdullah Al-Dahouk. He is a member of the Beehive Café in Al-Kharj, “but after the first month of receiving words of thanks and praise from everyone who attends, watches, hears and enjoys our events, we felt that the topic was different.” Al-Dahouk talks about his delight at the growing number of café visitors and those coming to the activities. “People’s keenness to attend and interact has become supportive and encouraging.” The ability of the café, during a short period of work, to attract great literary names and statures, for the first time, to the Al-Kharj area, has positive repercussions

One of the initiative’s stakeholders talks about the importance of the increase in the number of cafes. In the first year of the initiative, there were 20 cafes, and their number doubled in the second year, “the basic idea is that culture should not stay away from people, that it should come to them where they are. To go to the theater it is necessary to book in advance and possess an entrance ticket. As for the café, it is another matter, you enter it without an appointment, and you find a literary activity that you may like.”

The conditions are easy for cafes that want to engage in the initiative, it is enough that the space is sufficient, there is a special corner for books, and tables and chairs are available when organizing activities to allow receiving visitors

Spreading literature in areas far from the center, such as Tabuk, is one of the goals. Mona al-Huwaidi, owner of the “Qarooth Café” there, says that what she offers has borne fruit, and that she found interaction from a large number of Tabuk residents. “This moved the cultural scene and allowed creative and different ideas to emerge and appear in public, and it also greatly helped transform the cultural act from an elite gathering to a community activity in which people engage.” Thanks to her exceptional experience, Al-Huwaidi won the award for the first edition of “Literary Partner”.

Partner cafes do what they can to get culture to people, make books accessible to them, and literature a part of their lives, making them an essential partner in changing taste. Some cafes used to organize cultural activities on their own initiative, but now that they are partners, they not only receive material and moral support, but also benefit from the marketing and promotion provided by the organizing body and its activities, and inevitably increase the number of their patrons.

The project is subject to careful organization and a clear plan, which ensures rapid and continuous development. Every year, more cafes are opened to join the initiative. Electronic registration is a first step, the file is studied, there is a personal interview, and the signing of an agreement with the café owner, who then benefits from the support provided to him, whether to rehabilitate the place, operate events, or receive guests, some of whom come from outside the Kingdom.

“Our mission, despite its difficulty, is enjoyable, as it is not easy to instill a love of literature in the classical language among an audience that favors Nabati, but we did it, and we succeeded in a work that eluded many,” says Mona Al-Samati of the Beehive Café in Al-Kharj.

The experience of the «literary partner» has initiated the horizons of partnership with the private and non-profit sector in its various institutions to activate the role of culture in society, which is what Noura Al-Harbi talks about from the café «Oraib» in Medina, considering that this opportunity «allowed us to become a literary and cultural platform, gathering under its roof a lot of lovers and those interested in literature, and paved us a difficult and bumpy road, to spread the culture of reading and interest in literature for all individuals, which certainly contributes to the advancement of society».

Al-Harbi explains that visitors to the café prepare poetry evenings and cultural meetings that the city witnessed, for which they had the hardship of traveling. And here they are happy to come to their place of residence.

The experiment is juicy and still in its second year, yet it is making rapid leaps, surrounded by a work cell of young people who are passionate about the project and push it forward. The goal in the end is to target the café audience with literary and cultural events and contributions that enrich their visits to their places, and make them a different experience, and may be a door from which they turn to new heights.

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