Jordan's 24-hour literary labyrinth saved from closure

Story highlights

  • For over 120 years Hamzeh AlMaaytah's family have promoted reading in Amman and Jerusalem
  • His store al-Maa, in Amman, has become an institution for book-lovers in the Jordanian capital
  • This year it was saved from closure by an Indigogo crowd-sourcing campaign

(CNN)Nestled in between the crumbling buildings that line the ancient streets of Amman lies a haven for book lovers that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The al-Maa Bookstore (or Mahall al-Maa in Arabic) is owned by Hamzeh AlMaaytah, a fourth-generation book seller.
Opened as Al-Jahith's Treasury in the 1890s by AlMaaytah's grandfather, in 1948 the family business moved from Jerusalem to Amman, where it became the Jordanian capital's first lending library and was managed by AlMaaytah's father, Mamduh AlMaaytah.
    "Every day I would return to find my father asleep with a book on his chest. It was as if he had an exam every day. He was a lover of books," AlMaaytah, 36, tells CNN.

    New chapter

    Currently, al-Jahith's Treasury has three branches in downtown Amman, owned by AlMaaytah and his brothers. AlMaaytah's branch, nearby the Roman Nymphaeum, is in the original spot that his father relocated to.
    In 2016, AlMaaytah decided to split from the family brand and renamed his store al-Maa -- meaning "water" -- to better represent his philosophy: that books are as important to life as water, and should be just as accessible.
    As such, he refuses to price-tag any of his books, telling customers: "Take a book and read. Pay any price you please."