- Life Style
Kalila and Dimna children’s bookstore and cultural center offers young people the chance to embark on an interactive cultural journey promoting Egypt’s language and heritage. Its mission statement, appropriately, is “Bringing up a cultured Egyptian child.”
Established last June, it is Egypt’s first non-government-sponsored cultural center, targeting children aged four to 12. The center is named after an ancient Indian collection of books, known in English as Panchatantra, that tell stories of high morals, ethics and wisdom.
The idea was born when co-founders Nermeen Magdy and Ahmed Hegazy felt the need to address an increasing lack of Egyptian identity among children. “Instilling a love of identity will never be achieved unless kids learn to appreciate their culture and arts through recognizing the past,” Magdy says.
Besides providing a wide array of helpful books, Kalila and Dimna features daily activities covering a wide variety of Egyptian culture, from literature and poetry to painting and music. Every Tuesday at 7 pm, a storytelling workshop is held for an hour, with some workshops held outdoors in the story’s location, if possible, to grab the children’s interest.
Every month highlights a different cultural theme. Children can engage in simple discussions as well as explore the comparisons between eastern and western scientists, artists and writers. The bookstore and cultural center also regularly hosts short training courses by different experts, providing the history and basic techniques of writing, acting, and painting to hone young talent.
“I Am Arab and This is My Beautiful Writing”, an interactive course by children’s author and calligrapher Ahmed Suleiman to help youngsters discover Arabic writing, is a perfect example of Kalila and Dimna’s philosophy.
“Through this course, children appreciate art and develop a sense of art taste. Consequently, they learn just how precious and beautiful their heritage is and get to love it,” Magdy says.
This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.