Alexandria Library Reborn
Egypt’s first lady Suzanne Mubarak delivered the inaugural speech at a trial opening of the Alexandria Library, saying that Egypt wants the library to be should be a "window for Egypt to the world and a window for the world to Egypt."
The ceremony included the honoring of a Nobel Laureate Nagig Mahfouz and artist Salah Taher, along with a number of officials who took part in realizing the project, according to the Cairo-based Al Gomhuria newspaper.
The three-day event also includes seminars, art and book exhibitions.
The drive to rebuild a world-class library in Alexandria began in 1990 when President Hosni Mubarak called on the world to support the project as “ a center for tolerance and dialogue between the peoples of the world.”
Construction was repeatedly delayed, and the seven-story building was completed more than two years late and $30 million over budget, according to The Associated Press.
The trial opening, which should last no longer than six weeks, will test the computers, audiovisual facilities, a hall for braille readers, chambers for scholars and conference rooms.
The AP said that a major concern is the shortage of books. Built to accommodate at least 4 million works, the library has only 200,000 so far.
The formal opening of the library is set for April 23 - UN International Book Day.
The Egyptian ruler Ptolemy I Soter began the Great Library of Alexandria in the grounds of his royal palace in about 295 B.C. The site is not known, but recent excavations have revealed the palace grounds reached as far as the waterfront abutting the new library. The modern builders dug up ancient mosaics, and these are displayed in the new library.
The design of the library takes the shape of the sun, “which stands for the continuity of the Arab region’s scientific and vital contribution to the world civilization,” said Al Gomhuria – Albawaba.com
For 250 years, the Great Library served as a center for scholars from across the Mediterranean. It contained 500,000 scrolls, including the originals of the plays of Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles. Ptolemy III asked other statesmen to lend him their books to copy. In a throwback, Spain has agreed to donate copies of its old Arabic manuscripts to the new library.
For the new building, Egypt has retrieved a large collection of manuscripts from old Alexandrian libraries and an important collection of scientific manuscripts from the 10th to 18th centuries.
The bulk of the Great Library was believed destroyed by fire in 48 B.C. when Julius Caesar attacked Alexandria harbor in his war against Rome. The architects of the modern library have incorporated a highly sensitive anti-fire system in the building.