Libyan Cafés Serve a “Cup of Culture” Alongside Sips of Coffee

(Adapted from the Arabic, Imed ud-Din Hamaam for Al-Arabiya News)

“It is not by bread alone that man lives”–or at least, not the kind of life that Salah Hasan, an entrepreneur in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, wants for his people. Initiatives such as Hasan’s “Cup of Culture” in Safwa Coffee café, are part of a wave of cultural cafés that have slowly begun to spread down the city streets. These Cafe owners are not satisfied with offering only coffee and tea; they’d rather follow up with serving a “cup of culture” and soft, ambient music.

Hasan says “the project is primarily centered around culture, and aims to change the interets and convictions of [Libya’s] youth…What we’re focusing on is intellectual change.”

The starting point of this change is a simple rack set up in a corner of the shop — on it, there are books, papers, and magazines of varying genres and subject matter. Anyone who visits the café is free to help themselves to any of the growing material; an accessible and already popular stand-in for a local library.

Here, you will not have just a cup of coffee. Rather, you can relish in a “cup of culture,” as the owners of this coffee shop like to say. In Safwa Coffee, shown in the video above,  the phrase is imprinted on the rack displaying the reading material available to visiting patrons.

The initiative has enjoyed a popular reception, and it’s clear that the idea resonates with people; the cafe has attracted groups who’ve embarked upon scouting for books to contribute.

The driving forces of the project say that it is an invitation to the Libyan youth to invest their free time in more edifying activities. They want to move away from traditional methods of learning by introducing alternative, modern systems to attract and encourage young people to hang out in coffee shops–a non-academic setting to foster a life-long interest in learning.

Leave A Comment