When Diwan opened its doors in 2002, even the concept of such a bookshop was an anomaly in Cairo. Because no comparable bookshops existed in Cairo, essentially everything had to start from scratch, Wassef writes in her memoir – from the process of acquiring the books to making up for the widespread lack of ISBN numbers (the international identification system for book sales). In their design, the founders drew inspiration from other beloved bookshops, like Shakespeare and Company in Paris and Rizzoli in New York. They put English-language books on display on one side and Arabic on the other. A cosy cafe sat in the middle, inviting customers to stay to read or chat.