As you may or may not know, the Library of Alexandria is a major library in Egypt and is a cultural center located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Bibliotheca Alexandrina was built in 2002 and is a revival of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Construction on the new library began in 1995 and after 7 years and 220$ million in spending, the library was officially reopened.
Dedicated to be the center of excellence, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina aims to be the world’s window on Egypt and vice-versa, a leading institution of digital age and a learning center. Make sure to visit this magnificent library whenever you’re visiting Egypt, as it does not only perform as a library, but also a place of dialogue, learning and understanding different cultures and peoples.
The building walls are made of gray Aswan granite and are carved with characters from 120 human scripts. The main reading room is built beneath a 32-meter-high glass roof which is tilted towards the sea. The vast space and cascading levels make the library’s architecture striking and unique. The trip to this library is an adventure in itself since it holds so many different libraries and has rooms with different purposes, holding a lot of Egypt’s ancient history.
Visit the Library of Alexandria
The idea was to revive the old library after selecting a plot of land between the Alexandria University campus and the seafront for the new library. The Ancient Library of Alexandria was established during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and was one of the largest libraries of the ancient world. Because of the ancient library, Alexandria came to be regarded as the capital of knowledge and learning. The very initial idea of a universal library was proposed by Demetrius of Phalerum to Ptolemy I Soter. Part of the ancient library’s collection was accidentally burned by Julius Caesar during the civil war in 48 BC, but it’s uncertain whether it survived the burn or was rebuilt afterwards. On the other hand, the architectural design of Bibliotheca Alexandrina was organized by UNESCO to choose one that is worthy of the site and its heritage.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina hosts many book fairs, launches, ceremonies, competitions, conferences and even concerts, among many different events held in different areas and rooms of the library according to its purpose. Providing universal access to human knowledge, the library aims to preserve heritage for future generations. Many of the book collections available today in the library were donated from all over the world, such as a donation of 500,000 books received from the National Library of France in 2010 making the Bibliotheca Alexandrina the 6th largest Francophone library in the world.
The Library of Alexandria has enough space for 8 million books with a 20,000 square meter reading room. You can also find a conference center, libraries specialized for multimedia, the blind and visually impaired, maps, for children and more spaces with different purposes such as four museums, four art galleries and a manuscript restoration laboratory, among others. The library spreads to 160 meters in diameter and reaches up to 32 meters in height. The carvings done on the Bibliotheca Alexandrina were in collaboration with artists Jorunn Sannes and Kristian Blystad. The roof of the library is lit by vertical, north facing skylights so as not to expose direct sunlight in the room which is harmful to books and manuscripts. The entire library is filled with up-to-date digital information facilities and is also planned to accept a wide range of changing technologies. The aim is to digitally archive the past through the library’s websites, making any historical documents, books or any piece of knowledge easily accessible and available.
Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt and has many amazing and different attractions for you to discover, one of which is the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, so make sure you don’t miss out on discovering its beauty. Visit the Library of Alexandria and pick your guided tour from 3 different languages; Arabic, French and English. Grab yourself a book or visit one of the permanent exhibits and spend a little time discovering the area as the entire library is a masterpiece you will not regret visiting.
Sherif Khalil is Owner of Dunes & Beyond. Dunes & Beyond offers luxury tours, Nile cruises and desert safaris in Egypt.