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6 Stunning Libraries In The Middle East

Bookworms, we’ve got you covered

One of life’s great pleasures is curling up in a cozy corner, lost in the pages of an engrossing novel. One of the few things that could top that feeling is meandering through library aisles, exploring and savoring the infinite worlds contained within each volume, searching for that perfect book. For those who seek both intellectual nourishment and the joy of being enveloped by countless stories, read on for a curated list of the most stunning libraries across the Middle East, where every visit will leave any bookworm both stimulated and satisfied.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt 

With a history that echoes the grandeur and tragedy of its ancient predecessor, the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria stands as a modern homage to the legendary Library of Alexandria. Revived at the turn of the century, the cultural space now houses over 500,000 books, with enough space for eight million. The granite exterior walls, engraved with letters and symbols from various scripts, set a scholarly tone, while the main reading room spans 20,000 square meters. The library also boasts museums, art galleries, temporary and permanent exhibitions, a planetarium, and a laboratory for restoring ancient manuscripts.

Al-Qarawiyyin Library, Fez, Morocco 

Nestled within the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University complex in Fez, this library, founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 AD, is the world’s oldest continuously operating library, housing 4,000 rare texts and manuscripts, including a 9th-century version of the Holy Quran. After undergoing a significant restoration in 2012 to address damage from natural forces and flooding, the library reopened to the public. Its open spaces and mesmerizing tiles in white, orange, green, and blue make it one of the most beautiful buildings in the Arab world.

The Library at Ithraa, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia 

An initiative of Saudi Aramco, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) opened in 2018, aiming to promote talent and human development through its multifaceted facilities, including a performing arts theater, cinema, museum, and, most notably, a library. The four-story space offers open access to hundreds of thousands of books, organized by floor— the second floor for children and young adults, the third for a café catering to book lovers, the fourth for non-fiction, and the fifth for quiet study and books on history and geography. Designed by the Norwegian firm Snøhetta, the architecture symbolizes unity and the passage of time, with the tower representing the future, the ground floor the present, and the underground the past.

The House of Wisdom Library, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates 

This two-story library in Sharjah was inspired by the historic House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Overlooking a Japanese-style garden with 331 trees, including fig, ghaf, and palm, it features a grand white sculpture symbolizing ancient Arabic scrolls. The library offers exhibition areas, student pods, 3D printers, and a machine that can print and bind books in minutes. It also includes a children’s library, central courtyard, café, and restaurant, making it a serene oasis for reading and reflection.

Qatar National Library, Doha, Qatar

Spanning 45,000 square meters in Doha’s Education City, the Qatar National Library is a stunning blend of classical and modern design. Housing over a million books, the library features white bookshelves, a glass façade, and a column-free bridge connecting the main aisles. The Heritage Library, made of marble, showcases rare books and manuscripts, while other collections incorporate high-tech elements such as climate-controlled display cases, automated self-checkout, and a people mover system. The Heritage Library includes photographs, rare manuscripts, and writings by travelers from centuries past.

Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Dubai, United Arab Emirates 

Opened recently, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library in Dubai, UAE, is a monumental seven-story structure with nine libraries and an impressive catalog of over 1.1 million print and digital works. Set in Al Jaddaf by the Dubai Creek, the library features an indoor and outdoor amphitheater, a museum, and a high-tech system where books are delivered via monorail. The collection becomes more specialized with each ascending floor, culminating in the Treasures of the Library section on the seventh floor, which houses rare books, manuscripts, and artifacts dating back to the 13th century. The library also offers extensive collections of Arabic newspapers and magazines, preserving decades of history.

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