Not All Heroes Wear Capes: Meet Mohammed Aziz

Mohammed Aziz, a 71-year-old bookseller located in Rabat Medina, Morocco, spends 6 to 8 hours a day reading books. Having read over 5000 books in French, Arabic, and English, he remains the oldest bookseller in Rabat after more than 43 years in the same location. But his mission goes beyond just selling books.

Man on a Mission to Bring Literacy to a Country That Cannot Read

For Mohammed Aziz, 71, in Rabat Medina, reading is not a hobby but his meaning of life. Aziz's life took a tragic turn at the age of six when he lost his parents, forcing him into the challenging realm of orphanhood. Despite the adversity, he persevered, aiming to complete high school. However, at 15, the high cost of textbooks shattered his educational dreams. Frustrated, Mohamed turned to a refuge of books, surrounding himself with the solace of literature.

"This is how I take my revenge on my childhood, my situation, my poverty," Aziz declared to Morocco World News. Having spent over 43 years in the same location, Aziz rightfully boasts the distinction of being Rabat’s Medina's eldest bookseller. His memorable image, absorbed in reading near the doorway of his unassuming shop, serves as a notable landmark along Mohammed V Avenue in Rabat's historic old city. 

His love for reading translates to the amount of time he spends reading books. With an unwavering commitment, he proudly states that he has delved into over 4,000 books, allocating a minimum of 8 hours daily to this intellectual pursuit. During the remaining hours, he roams the neighbourhoods of Rabat, tirelessly seeking out book vendors from whom he acquires literary gems. These treasures, carefully curated, find their place on the shelves of his store, ready to be shared with fellow enthusiasts. 

Step into Aziz's unique bookstore wonderland and you will find that tabloid magazines go for a cool MAD 5 ($0.52), and medical textbooks are the VIPs demanding MAD 700 ($73). Working a 12-hour day, followed by a routine of sourcing the best books from competitors, integrating them into his stacks upon return to the shop, Aziz spends his remaining time reading. He shared that he’s taking breaks only for essential activities like eating, praying, smoking, and assisting customers. Despite his extensive collection, Aziz typically makes one or two sales per day.

When asked about the quantity of books, Aziz casually replies, "Not enough,” to Morocco World News.

Mohamed Azi sitting in front of his bookstore with a pile of books around.
Photo Credit: Natura Selection

Empathetic to the financial burden of textbooks, Aziz, who vividly remembers their high costs, proactively slashes prices for upcoming students. His aim is to remove the obstacle of expensive books, hoping it won't be a hindrance preventing students from attending school. 

However, selling books is merely Aziz’s foremost problem. As reported by the publication, Morocco still has a high number of illiteracies, despite the country’s significant strides in reducing the rate from 87% in 1960 to 32% in 2014, as reported by the High Commission for Planning (HCP). With roughly three in 10 Moroccans grappling with illiteracy, Aziz said the low rate is not a new issue. Drawing from his own experience 50 years ago, he highlights that many young students, including himself, faced challenges in completing their education and opted not to continue to high school. "It happened to me 50 years ago, and it’s happening now."

By keeping his bookstore open and providing the public with an opportunity to read, Aziz aspires to contribute to spreading the importance of education. With a resolute spirit, he declares, "I'll be here till everyone can read.”

Mohammed Aziz's reading a book inside his bookstore.
Photo Credit: WarungSejarahRI

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