More than 2000 years ago, Alexandria was the most important city and cultural hub in the world. This was in Ptolemaic era in Egypt. The city of Alexandria has also hosted the largest and most comprehensive Library in the ancient world before being destroyed in the year 48 AD. Many travelers used to visit Egypt to study in the ancient library and the university of Alexandria.
Recognizing the importance of the Library of Alexandria, the former president of Egypt, Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, with an initiative from the UNESCO, has constructed the New Library of Alexandria that was opened in 2002 as a magnificent modern library. Where tourists from all over the world spending their vacation in Egypt visit the New Library of Alexandria every day.
The New Library of Alexandria was established near the location of the old library in the Shatby district in Alexandria overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The new building of the Library of Alexandria ornaments the Kornish Street of Alexandria and became a wonderful landmark of the jewel of the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt almost all travel packages in Egypt which include a day or half-day tour in Alexandria would surly include a visit to the Library of Alexandria.
Historians have always debated the question of who were the real founder and establisher of the ancient Library of Alexandria. Many scholars believe that Alexander the Great was the one who truly thought about constructing the Great Ancient Library of Alexandria in the 3rd century BC.
On the other hand, many other historians assert that the founder of the library was Ptolemy I as he was the ruler who completed the work in the library of Alexandria.
The Date, which has witnessed the establishment of Ancient Library of Alexandria, has also been debated. Some of the historians say it was built and completed in 330 BC while other claim it was constructed in 288 BC.
The fame the ancient Library of Alexandria has gained was due to the fact that it was the first large public library to be established in the world. During the Pharaonic period, there were many libraries rich with different books and manuscripts. However, the access to these libraries was limited to the higher priests and members of the king’s royal family.
Another important reason behind the fame of the ancient Library of Alexandria is that it contained the books of the ancient Egyptian and the Greek civilization all together. The library of Alexandria has witnessed the blend between the two civilizations as well which resulted in the Hellenistic civilization.
Moreover, any scholar or student who studied in the library of Alexandria had to leave a copy of his works in the library. This made the library the largest and the richest in the whole world.
The Ancient Library of Alexandria was for sure the first and greatest library known in the history of mankind. It used to host more than 700,000 books and scripts. The library was even widened and enlarged during the reign of Ptolemy II to have more books and offer more courses of knowledge.
However, this great landmark of civilization was burned in the year 48 BC when Julius Cesar, the famous Roman army leader, burned more than one hundred ships on the shores of Alexandria and the fire of these ships reached the library which was completely burned and demolished.
Some other historians noted that the library has survived the famous fire of Julius Cesar and that it was damaged during the Arab conquest of Egypt in 640 AD. However, many scholars assert that this is not true as when Amr Ibn Al Aas, the famous Arabian Moslem army commander entered Alexandria in the 7th century AD, the Library of Alexandria was gone long before that day.
The idea to build a new library in Alexandria emerged in the year 1986. It was a huge project that involved the Egyptian Government, the UNESCO, and the UNDP. Afterwards, an international architectural competition took place and more than 100 architects from all over the world participated with their designs of a new library of Alexandria. The Norwegian architect company, Sonneta won the competition.
The construction work of the new library of Alexandria started in the year 1998 when the former Egyptian president, Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, laid the foundation of this marvelous building. The construction work was finished in the year 2000 and the library was officially opened in 2002.
The new library of Alexandria occupies a surface area of more than 36,000 square meters. The building of the library consists of a truncated cylinder, which has a diameter of 106 meters and a height of 33 meters.
The back of the library that is also the highest section of the building was made out of red granite imported from Aswan and the roof of the building was made out of strong steel with glass panels that enable the sun to enter the library at all times of the day.
The new library of Alexandria today hosts more than two million books in Arabic, English, and French. This is besides a collection of books in other languages like German, Italian, and Spanish.
The new library is considered to be the forth largest library in the whole world and it contains an audio video library that contains materials from religious, political, cultural, documentary, cinematic, and educational fields.
There are also a library specified for the children from 6 to 12 years old, a library for youth from 12 until 21, a library for the blind people, and a huge library of maps.
This is besides the museum of the Library of Alexandria which hosts more than one thousand displays illustrates the history of Alexandria from the Pharaonic period, passing by the Greco Roman period, and ending with the Islamic period and the cotemporary history.
Today the library of Alexandria is almost included in all tours to Egypt that contains a visit to the jewel of the Mediterranean, Alexandria. Many Egyptians as well visit the library every day to read and enjoy their time.