A
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French Version

A floating bookshop at Aqaba

AQABA—Its first duty was transporting onions from New York to Texas some 91 years ago. But since embarking on a new endeavor in 1977, it has received more than 17 million visitors. The ship is the world’s oldest passenger liner still sailing the seven seas.

It is also the world’s largest floating bookstore. MV Doulos is owned and operated by the German charity organization Gute Bücher für Alle (Good Books for All). Its mission is to provide literature at affordable prices in port cities where books are not easily accessible.

The ship’s crew also participates in different forms of humanitarian aid. Earlier this week, the Doulos arrived for a two-week stay at Aqaba Port, Jordan—ranking 102 among countries the ship has visited so far and straight after visiting Lebanon and Egypt.

The floating bookstore carries a stock of half a million books offering more than 7,000 categories and covering a wide range of subjects such as literature, language, reference books, science, technology, sports, hobbies, cookery, arts and philosophy, as well as a large selection of children’s books. “Most topics are available, excluding anything that has to do with adultery or pornography and anything that could harm humanity,” says Simon Chen, the ship’s journalist.

Nearly all the stock is in English, except for a few Arabic and French titles. Books are priced according to a criterion that takes into consideration the original value of the book. Thence, the currency is converted into a specific amount in units. These units are based upon the various currencies of where the books originate. So all books are thus unified in price into units that could be converted readily into the currency of where the ship puts anchor. So books that sell for a certain amount of units carry a tag of the equal amount in that country’s currency, where the ship is at bay. The Doulos crew is made up of more than 300 volunteers from 40 different countries. “We want to reflect the love of our Creator through our ordinary lives and our charitable work, so we sail the world to bring knowledge, help and hope to the peoples of the world,” explains Chen. “This is an expression of our submission to God.” Doulos means “servant” in Greek.

Sponsored by the Church, organizations and individuals in their countries, volunteers sign up to serve on the Doulos for two years, with the chance to extend service indefinitely. Some volunteers admitted that the time they spend on the Doulos has transformed them. “My time on the ship is opening my eyes to the needs of the world,” exclaimed Didier Astorga a sailor on the ship, who had previously served in the French Navy for 10 years. “Now I don’t want to go back to Paris; I just want to enjoy life, because I realized that life is not just about making money, but about giving.”

For other volunteers, they are glad to find themselves on the receiving end as well. After spending 42 years in the telephone industry, a Turkish electrician and the most senior crew member, gave up his career, and joined the ship as a volunteer. “This is a great way to serve God; in the meantime somebody prepares my meals for me, washes my dishes and does my laundry,” he said. “It’s the best job that I’ve never been paid for. It’s a good deal for an old bachelor “he said. “I feel like I’m living with my family”. In Egypt the ship set anchor at Port Said in the first ever visit to the country. Colorful flags and a cultural troupe waited on the quayside for the ship’s arrival.

The ship’s community greatly enjoyed the performances of local dance and song troupes. Over 2,000 people came on board on the first day and many of the visitors were excited by the opportunities to make new friends and to practice their English. When the Doulos had earlier visited Nigeria, 8,000 people on average visited the boat daily, most of them waiting in line for several hours to climb on board. “It was a comfort to see how people have this hunger for books, for knowledge,” says John from New Zealand. “I’ve seen some people moved to tears when they finally found a book they wanted, they were so happy.”

In addition to selling books at low prices at each port, Doulos also offers discounts to schools and public libraries, and donates books to the needy. Doulos organizers point out that their follow-up studies often show a marked increase in book sales in the cities where the ship had already visited. “People who never took up reading seriously are now interested in it,” according to Chen. Crewmembers, too, benefit from the ship’s extensive cargo. “I had read maybe two books in my entire life before I joined the ship; now I’m on my 184th book,” boasted John. Community outreach is also a crucial part of the Doulos mission.

The crew has a “discovery day” each week for humanitarian activities, ranging from soccer games for underprivileged children to voluntary work on plumbing in refugee camps. Serving on the Doulos “really changes your view of the world”, mused John philosophically as he concluded, “Before, I was in control of my life. I did what I wanted to. Now it’s the other way around. I’m just letting God lead me, it’s a cruise to my inner soul as well.”

Amman,21March2005
khalil Daoud
The Star


Geography
Some Marks
To see in Jordan
Overview
Fairs & Exhibitions
Useful Addresses
Media of 1stjordan
Impact of 1stjordan
The 'First Jordan' Card
Press Book
Exotica - Flowers - Shopping on line
www.exotica.com.lb
Engineering Consultants Lebanon
www.spectrumlb.com
Nsouli Jewelry Lebanon
www.nsoulijewelry.com
Hotel Beirut Lebanon
acropolishotel.com
Rent Villas France for Holidays, Seasonal Rentals France
www.rent-villas-france.com
Sole Agent for Philips & Whirlpool in Lebanon
www.azelectronic.com
Arab Printing Press Lebanon
www.arab-printing-press.com
Hotel Beirut Lebanon
www.hotelcavalier.com
Arabic Music, CD Arabia
www.cd-arabia.com
Hotels Syria
www.chamhotels.com
Groupe PMR
www.groupe-pmr.com