The Royal Library of Alexandria was once the largest library in the world. It was a major library and cultural centre located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
The ancient library was built by the order of Ptolemy ll in the third century BC and it was said that it contained 700,000 books. Many great scientists also studied in the library such as Archimedes.
The library of Alexandria became famous around the world as it was the first public governmental library in history. The library contained the science, civilisation, and books of two remarkable periods: The Pharaonic and the Greek.
The two civilisations of the west and east met in this great library through books and lectures held in the library.
Most historians believe that Julius Caesar burned 101 ships that were arriving on the Mediterranean Sea coast at Alexandria in the year of 48 BC. Ptolemy, the brother of Cleopatra, went to fight Caesar thinking that he was helping the queen. This great fire reached the library and caused huge damage to the building of the library and the books inside. However, some historians claim that the library was there until the year 640 AD when it was burnt down under the orders of Amr Ibn Al Aas, the Moslem leader who conquered Egypt at that time.
The first decision to rebuild the library of Alexandria was made in 1974. However, this was not acted upon until the late 1980’s. The Egyptian president, Hosny Mubarak declared that he intended to rebuild the library with the aid of UNESCO. The library was officially opened on 17th of October 2002 on the site of the ancient library. The design of the modern library of Alexandria consisted of four underground areas and six upper areas. The special shape of the modern library of Alexandria is considered an architectural masterpiece. The library is 10 stories tall and has an oval-shaped cover with a radius of 60 metres. It has room to hold over 8 million books.
There are special areas in the library for blind and visually impaired children, including sections devoted to art and multimedia, as well as audiovisual equipment and collections of very rare books. The library also has seven academic research centres, a planetarium, an internet archive and a laboratory for restoring manuscripts.
The new Library of Alexandria, in addition to the scientific centre, also acts as a cultural centre. Inside the magnificent building there are four galleries for temporary exhibitions and nine galleries where permanent exhibitions are displayed. You will also find three museums dedicated to antiques, manuscripts and science.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the new Library of Alexandria) is on our Around Egypt in 14 Days tour. Check out the tour and the modern version of the ancient library.