Budget reads in Dubai

Bargain books, beach reads and treats for little bookworms

The Old Library

Situated in the Ductac complex at Mall of the Emirates, this small, very well-stocked library began life more than 40 years ago in the British Embassy, by the British Ambassador’s wife. Today it has a dedicated space at Ductac, and is stocked with over 19,000 English books for children, teenagers and adults. The library is run entirely by volunteers, and every bit of profit made from the lending service is put back into purchasing new books.

Jenny Colquhoun, a senior librarian, explains: ‘All the books we have in stock are in English. The library is run in the tradition of a typical British community library, in that a subscription is paid every year and the books are borrowed on a four-week loan. You can take out eight books at a time free of charge, but we do charge a fine of Dhs1 per day for any that are brought back late. We have book buyers among our team who make buying trips every month to ensure our stock is always bang up-to-date and we also run an ordering service – which means you can request the books that are bought in for the next shipment.’ She adds that profit is also made on the sale of second hand books. ‘If we have several good quality copies of the same book, we’ll often sell off the duplicates, and profits from that are used in the day-to-day running of the library. Donations of secondhand books are always welcomed – but we don’t pay people for them.’

The Old Library also runs pre-school reading storytelling sessions every Sunday morning for young members and their parents – though pre registration is essential.

Where is it: Ductac, Mall of the Emirates
What’s the deal: Annual membership renewal costs Dhs200. New members pay an additional Dhs50 for administration work. All book borrowing is free, with a Dhs1 per-book per-day charge for late returns.
Open: 10am-6pm, Sat-Thurs. Closed Fridays and public holidays.
Contact: www.theoldlibrary.ae (04 341 4777 ext 207).

Read N Enjoy

This brand new lending library on JBR has a stock of 5,000 books catering to toddlers, teens and adults and runs several community initiatives to promote literacy. Owner Rada Janarehan explains: ‘We run the lending library on a membership basis – and you can join for just a month to test our services, or for 12 months. After you’ve paid the membership fees, you can take out up to four books at a time, for an unlimited period – although, we do request that a book comes back sooner rather than later if there is a waiting list for it. Our aim is to reach out to the community, and provide the services it requires.’

Currently, they hold a French speaking playgroup on Sundays, and are hoping to expand that service to the Russian community too. They also have an online book delivery service for those members who can’t visit the library. Customers simply log on to the website, select the books they want to borrow, and they’re delivered free of charge in Dubai, and with a small dispatch fee if they are to be sent to other emirates.

Where is it: JBR, Rimal Plaza Level
What’s the deal: Annual membership costs Dhs600 – or you can apply for monthly membership for Dhs100. All book borrowing is free and there are no fines for late returns. Online library membership costs Dhs60 per month for five books. Dispatch of the books anywhere in Dubai is free, while delivery to other emirates incurs a Dhs12 dispatch charge.
Open: 9am-9pm, Sat-Thurs. 1pm-8pm, Fridays.
Contact: www.readnenjoy.com (04 448 7046).

Book World

Undoubtedly one of the best second-hand bookshops in Dubai, Book World in Satwa has an exceptionally huge collection of tomes that are ripe for rifling through (the walls are covered with sliding bookshelves that reveal yet more bookshelves behind them). ‘People come here to find books that they can’t find anywhere else in Dubai,’ says Leena, a partner in the business. We can easily believe it – the store even has a mezzanine level reminiscent of Being John Malkovich’s floor 7½ piled high with reads. While you can’t haggle at Book World, they are happy to give bulk discounts. What’s more, if you buy a book and bring it back, you’re also refunded half the price. They also have an extensive range of children’s and young adults books, which range in price from Dhs4 to Dhs15. You’re bound to find all sorts of bargains to keep them entertained on a weekend – and once they’ve read them all, you can take them all back and buy some more!

Where is it: Al Hudaiba Street (Plant Street), Satwa
What’s the deal: Buy second hand books that you can then return to the shop for 50 per cent of the price you paid for them.
Open: 9.30am-9.45pm (Sat-Thurs); 4.30pm-9.45pm (Fri).
Contact: (04 349 1914).

House of Prose

The House of Prose has one policy: buy any book at a very reasonable price, read it, then either keep it or return it to get 50 per cent of your money back. Sounds like a good deal to us. The second-hand store is a fantastic resource – you save money, and you get to see what the other bookworms in Dubai are reading. We love the fact that you can pick up children’s books for between Dhs8 and Dhs25, and once they’ve been read, return them and get back 50 per cent of the price you paid. This is great way to chop and change your child’s literary collections, and it’s a brilliant place to take them if they have pocket money to spend. A little goes a long way here.

Where is it: There are two branches; Jumeirah Plaza, the Beach Road Dubai Garden Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road.
What’s the deal: Buy second- hand books that you can then return to the shop for 50 per cent of the price you paid for it.
Open: Jumeirah Plaza branch, Sat-Thu 9am-8pm; Fri 5.30pm-8pm. Dubai Garden Centre branch, 9am-8pm daily.
Contact: Jumeirah Plaza (04 344 9021); Dubai Garden Centre (04 340 0006 ext 308).


This handy little coffee/secondhand book shop is the latest innovation from House of Prose. The concept is the same as the other stores. If you buy a book, you can bring it back and get 50 per cent of the price you paid for it. They also buy second-hand books (must be in a reasonable condition) and donate books to a breast cancer charity. And there’s a great menu to accompany the bookshelves. We especially like this concept as mums can settle down to a snack or lunch with the nippers, (and a sneaky read) while dad goes off happily to potter around the DIY isles in peace, so he’ll be happy too. What a great concept!

Where is it: Ace Hardware, Dubai Festival City.
What’s the deal: Buy second hand books that you can then return to the shop for 50 per cent of the price you paid for them.
Open: 9am-10pm (Sat-Wed); 9am-midnight (Thurs-Fri).
Contact: Ace Hardware (04 232 6992).

Public libraries

It’s really worth becoming a member of Dubai’s government libraries too. Anyone can join, with family membership costing as little as Dhs50 per year (with an added Dhs200 refundable deposit). Dubai’s public libraries are open from 8am to 9pm and offer a range of services, from storytelling, exhibitions and cultural competitions, to children’s seminars and training courses in English and Arabic. Why not visit a government library near you and see what it has to offer?

• Al Ras Library, Banyas Street (04 226 2788)
• Hor Al Anz Library, Al Nahda (04 266 1788)
• Al Rashidiya Library, Al Rashidiya (04 285 8065)
• Al Twar Library, Al Twar (04 263 0013)
• ICDL Centre and Al Safa Library, Al Safa Park (04 394 7279)
• Umm Suqeim Library, Umm Suqeim (04 348 2512)

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