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Meanwhile... book-loving Somalis defy the threats of terrorists

And in Slovakia, one of the world’s more unusual museums opened last month: Štefan Polgári opened the Múzeum Mobilov – or Museum of Vintage Cellphones – in his home. 

Readers browse at the Mogadishu book fair.
Feisal Omar/Reuters
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  • Staff

In Mogadishu, Somalia, book-loving Somalis defied the threats of terrorists and went forward last month with the third annual Mogadishu Book Fair.

The war-scarred African capital seems an unlikely venue for a literary fair. As of last year, the city had no bookstores and no operational public libraries. 

But that’s exactly why Mogadishu – and Somalia – need a book festival, Mohamed Diini told Al Jazeera when he first founded the event in 2015. “We are holding this fair to revive the culture of writing and reading in our country. Another aim is to connect local writers with their counterparts from abroad so they can exchange ideas,” he said.

Somalia has been torn by fighting between rival warlords since 1991. Starting in 2008, a book fair has been held each year in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, tucked in a more tranquil corner of Somalia. Mogadishu, however, with its reputation as a dangerous city, is a much more challenging venue, and threats of violence from terrorist group Al Shabab aimed at this year’s festival could have discouraged less intrepid organizers.

Yet the fair went forward and even achieved another goal, as foreign authors were in attendance for the first time. Thirty-one authors – including expatriates who returned from abroad and also some authors from neighboring African countries – participated in the fair, meeting with a few thousand book-loving Somalis. 

“The response is quite huge. The need is there,” Mohamed Dubo told Quartz. Mr. Dubo also said that the fair has inspired him to open a bookstore in the city. “The willingness to read books is there,” he said. 

In Dobšiná, Slovakia, one of the world’s more unusual museums opened last month. Štefan Polgári, who has been writing online reviews of cellphones for more than a decade, since he was 15 years old, opened the Múzeum Mobilov – or Museum of Vintage Cellphones – in his home. 

Mr. Polgári’s collection of 3,500 phones features 1,500 different models, including early Samsungs, Nokias, Motorolas, and Sony Ericssons. Although Polgári personally uses an iPhone, his interest as a collector is confined to what he considers “ancient” cellphones (all of which still work). 

“These are design and technology masterpieces that did not steal your time,” Polgári told Reuters. “There are no phones younger than the first touchscreen models, definitely no smartphones.” 

The museum is open to the public by appointment.

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