|English: The Bibliotheca Alexandrina as seen from behind a Statue of Poseidon mating with Athena. Alexandria, Egypt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (English: Library of Alexandria; Arabic: مكتبة الإسكندرية Maktabat al-Iskandarīyah)
The idea of reviving the old library, so famously destructed by fire in antiquity, dates back to 1974, when a committee set up by Alexandria University selected a plot of land for its new equivalent, between the campus and the seafront, close to where the ancient library once stood. The notion of recreating the ancient library was soon enthusiastically adopted by other individuals and agencies. One leading supporter of the project was former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; UNESCO was also quick to embrace the concept of endowing the Mediterranean region with a center of cultural and scientific excellence. A very generous check from Saddam Hussein (seven digits, no less) was allegedly cashed in just before the War in the Gulf.
An architectural design competition, organized by UNESCO in 1988 to choose a design worthy of the site and its heritage, was won by Snøhetta, a Norwegian architectural office, from among more than 1,400 entries.
The library has shelf space for eight million books, with the main reading room covering 70,000 m² on eleven cascading levels. The complex also houses a conference center; specialized libraries for maps, multimedia, the blind and visually impaired, young people, and for children; four museums; four art galleries for temporary exhibitions; 15 permanent exhibitions; a planetarium; and a manuscript restoration laboratory. The library’s architecture is equally striking. The main reading room stands beneath a 32-meter-high glass-panelled roof, tilted out toward the sea like a sundial, and measuring some 160 m in diameter. The walls are of gray Aswan granite, carved with characters from 120 different human scripts.
The collections at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina were donated from all over the world. The Spanish donated documents that detailed their period of Moorish rule. The French also donated, giving the library documents dealing with the building of the Suez Canal.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is trilingual, containing books in Arabic, English and French. In 2010, the library received a generous donation of 500,000 books from the National Library of France, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). The gift makes the Bibliotheca Alexandrina the sixth-largest