This post is about a gem of a publishing house called Rimal. I found it in one of my favorite events in the United Arab Emirates, the Sharjah International Book Fair. My sister and I have been going to it mostly together since the beginning of our idea to do a project that serves through education so now it is going on 13 years. Its Arabic children’s section is just amazing as it offers the unique chance to find books for children from all over the Arab world and beyond. We have built a 20,000 book strong library mostly from this book fair so there is a lot to be grateful for there.
So in November of 2016, I was walking around, having just arrived to the fair and talking on the phone with my dear friend who offered to help me set up the Bint Battuta site. She had seen me struggling with the visual and design part and stepped in to help. Since then, she has not looked back, always there with solutions, advice and moral support! Again a reason to be very grateful and hopeful. This blog has been one of my most impactful lessons of when God Wills something then it can happen with ease and joy. The right team will come together, people to help and support will appear at the right moments, alongside information and opportunities to keep it flourishing. I hold every person who works to make this blog happen very dear to my heart. Amazing souls that they are!
As I was still on the phone looking at the colors she was sharing for the logo, I couldn’t make up my mind and was wishing my sister was with me but she was sleeping on the other side of the world in the States. Simultaneously, I came across a stall for the publishing house Rimal. Some titles caught my eye so I stopped to browse and while I was looking, Falak one of the two young women standing in the stall came to greet me and from her positive energy and gentle smile, and the especially elegant look of the stall, I decided to ask her for help. What is the worst that could happen.. that she says that she doesn’t know much about color and design? Well as luck would have it Falak is a photographer as well as one of the two daughters of Nora Shawwa who founded Rimal and now run its daily operations. So she graciously told me her opinions and we chose the colors and design together and her generosity is part of Bint Battuta and its elegant look forever. Once I hung up, I proceeded to look at the books. Now mind you, Rimal isn’t a big publishing house, it is more like the kind of publishing house I would have, small with each book painstakingly chosen and craftily presented to honor the words, and their author.
I saw children books I liked and purchased them right away, but what really tickled my heart with joy were the amazing books on Palestine. There was a complete box set of Ghassan Kanafani’s work which I had not seen grouped in a box before and I immediately got two for my nieces as no Palestinian youth’s understanding of Palestine and its struggles is complete without reading some of Ghassan Kanafani’s seminal work. Then there were the two books on Palestinian embroidery and with my Palestinian roots, the love and appreciation and curiosity about embroidery is a given. Falak gave me a tour of the books, one precious one after the other and I fell in love with a delicate magical book of poetry that I got as well. Then I left.
I liked Rimal and Falak so much that I went back again after a few hours of walking around to browse books and educational materials to say hello. Seeing that I looked tired, they immediately invited me with Arab style hospitality to sit down and offered me food that one of their mother’s close friends who lived in Sharjah had sent them. I was so warmed by that as it reminded me of all the times my mother would bring me a dish that one of her friends had sent over for me because I loved the way they made it. This nurturing gesture that is part and parcel of Arab culture is so dear to my heart and for sure one of my own languages of love hehe. I was so touched, yet again, with her elegant and generous spirit that is truly the spirit that I feel also defines Rimal. The topics of the books have depth and represent different Arab countries such as Libya and Iraq, and some are in collaboration with Cypriot authors which is a natural extension of Rimal being based there. It was so obvious that those were books chosen with love of reading, cultures, history and beauty. I felt so at home!
It was, of course, a matter of time before I approached Falak to write a post about Rimal. She asked me to send her the questions so that they could consider them and write the answers with care, and I did. The answers which I read earlier today were a window so eloquently and carefully drawn to give me and us an understanding of Rimal’s mission, values, and journey. I loved finding out that they do a lot of work to support initiatives and organizations do non-profit work of service across the world and that their integrity and humanity include the sustainability of the paper they use. It was a complete and seamless presentation of being a conscious and responsible creative presence in the world.
There was a moment mid-way when my eyes overflowed with full, gentle tears of gratitude and recognition, of the kind of love, dedication, discretion and effort it took for them to get to where they are today having brought into the world the books which each one would be a gem I would want to write about. I felt the echo of the work that we, Mona my sister, Youmna and Heba my dear friends, and I do for teaching Arabic as a second language. I recognize the strong belief, vision and the grit in facing the struggles along the way. This is not unlike every person who decided that work was about bringing beauty and meaning to the world. Rimal and its family are definitely part of that Blessed circle.
The Rimal Journey
DISCOVER Rimal Books
Rimal is an independent publishing house, established in 1993 in Cyprus by Nora Shawwa. They specialize in publishing art, culture, history, travel, educational and children books. Rimal has come to be recognized for publishing books in both the English and Arabic languages, introducing readers to the unique cultural richness of the Middle East and the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. You can find their books worldwide at hand selected book shops, concept stores, museum shops and their online store.
VISIT Sharjah International Book Fair
Organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) in the emirate of Sharjah, cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), SIBF 2018 witnessed a footfall of 2.23 million visitors in 11 days, including 230,000 school students who poured in from around the country.
The Sharjah International Book Fair hosted 1,874 publishers from 77 countries who brought in 1.6 million titles, 80,000 of which were seen at the fair for the first time. It also offered its stage to 1,800 events spanning celebrity author talks, seminars, book signings, poetry and storytelling, theatre, arts, entertainment and much more.
To Rimal for the contribution of images.