'We tried to save what we can': Dubai bookstore loses thousands of books in flood

With 30% of their inventory damaged, owners of Preloved Books now face the daunting task of rebuilding from scratch

by

Waad Barakat

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Damaged books at Preloved Books after the floods. — Supplied photos
Damaged books at Preloved Books after the floods. — Supplied photos

Published: Fri 19 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

After heavy rain battered the UAE on Tuesday, Dubai-based bookstore, Preloved Books, is grappling with the aftermath of the flood that threatens its survival. In the basement of the bookstore in Silicon Oasis, thousands of books were not spared by the floods.

"It's heartbreaking to see it all gone," said Grace Karim, a Lebanese resident and one of the bookstore owners, as she vividly recounted the events that unfolded that day.


"By 11am on Tuesday, water had already reached a depth of 30cm within the basement." Desperate to protect their store, they hastily erected a shield, but their efforts were in vain as the water breached their defence. Thousands of books were submerged, and the wooden shelves that housed them suffered severe damage, requiring complete replacement.

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The adjacent storage space, which held additional inventory for the retail store, was also affected. Grace recalled her sense of hopelessness as they struggled to salvage what they could. “We tried to save what we can, we lifted some books on high level tables as they were on the floor, but some were in heavy boxes that we couldn’t lift,” said Grace.

Preloved Books before the flood.
Preloved Books before the flood.

Hopelessly, for Grace and her partner Somia Anwar, Pakistani resident, the waiting game began as they anxiously awaited the completion of the water drainage process to assess the full extent of the damage. After getting the chance to get into the basement, it was clear to Grace that more than 3,000 books were damaged.

For Preloved Books, this disaster represents more than just a financial setback.

Flooded storage room.
Flooded storage room.

"This is our only investment; we don't have any other means," Grace added. The store was founded in February 2020 as an online marketplace for buying and selling pre-owned books. Responding to the demand from UAE residents who yearned for a physical space to explore, Grace and her partner Somia took the leap and opened a walk-in retail store in 2023.

With approximately 30 per cent of their inventory damaged, the store owners now face the daunting task of rebuilding from scratch. The 20,000 books that once adorned their shelves now lie in danger. As they wait to evaluate the situation further, they have temporarily closed their online store and are left with the agonising uncertainty of their future.

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