The quantity of books in Egypt is incredibly large and diverse, with the book market being one of the oldest in the region, if not the world. Searching for a specific vintage is not so much finding a needle in a haystack as finding a particular grain of sand in the desert. There are people who go out of their way to collect such books, and Omar Badrekhan, petroleum trainer turned vintage collector, is one of them. A fact that is clearly seen through its online platform, Vatrina.
Vatrina is less a bookstore than a service for finding vintage items. That’s how it all started, actually. Before launching Vatrina, Badrekhan simply wanted to find rare and vintage cookbooks to support his wife Salma Serry’s research in culinary history.
“You want to find books, but how can you find them? I started going to used book markets like el Azbbakeya, as field research,” Badrekhan told CairoScene. “We ended up with an archive of 400 books, so we decided to do something with it.”
From there it grew to encompass many of Egypt’s most elusive books, documents and artifacts, from cookbooks by Abla Nazira to a painting by the iconic Seif Waili. Ancient maps, groundbreaking posters, classic comics and magazines like Sinbad and Samir – it’s more than a snapshot of Egyptian culture, it’s a panorama.
Although Badrekhan loves the thrill of finding it all really cool, he didn’t want to pile it on. He wanted to keep going, and to keep going he needed funds, so he made it what he described as “the best stampede” of his life.
“I love looking for stuff. In Jordan, we have a land with Roman artifacts,” Badrekhan says. “I always liked looking for stuff, so it came naturally.”
While the couple didn’t expect the page to explode, they love what they’ve done. They named it Vatrina, the Arabic name for showcases. After all, Instagram is full of pages where people are just window shopping, and theirs is a wonderful window to look through.