Revival of the Ancient Library of Alexandria
principal objective of reviving the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is to es
tablish a comprehensive research library of a unique collection and
inten tion. The new library is designed as a modem state-of-art
translation of the old, adequate for crossing the frontiers and
meeting the challenges
of the 21st. century. It will certainly contribute to excellence in
research and advancement of human knowledge. The library will become
a unique ad mired research institution, a haven for scholars
worldwide to produce their quality work of excellence. It will also
be an invaluable informa tion resource to support decision-making
and broaden future horizons for the cultural, social and economic
development of Egypt and the region. Subsequently, the library will
play a needed role to further cooperation between the north and
south of the Mediterranean Basin. as well as be tween the east and
west. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has adopted its collection
development policy in cooperation with UNDPIUNESCO and with valuable
input of national and international experts, in or der to evolve its
unique collection and functions and to avoid repetition and
unnecessary overlapping with other research libraries regionally or
internationally. Since the famous 1990 Aswan Declaration, UNESCO
and the international community has been cooperating with the
Egyptian Gov ernment to muster resources for the library
The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina has a site of 45 000m2 located in
the cen ter of Alexandria across from the Silsilah Peninsula. This
is the location of the ancient “Royal Quarter”, where the first
library is thought to have been located. A 1993 archaeological
survey of thes ite further verifies the loca tion of this “Royal
The Corniche waterfront avenue and the sea bound the library site
from the north for a length of 305m giving the Library a magnificent
view of the Eastern Harbor. Also, on the site, is the Conference
Center of Alexan dria, 5 000m2, which will augment the facilities of
A brief on the ancient library of
The Ancient Library of Alexandria was
established by Ptolemy I (Soter) in the year 288 B.C. It was
intended as a meeting place of the most eminent minds of the time
who would gather in the temple of the muses or the Museum. This was
the first research center in the world. It was a sort of scholarly
academy attracting prominent scientists and intellectuals, with a
library annexed to it. Several buildings were involved of which the
most famous were the museum, and the library by the waterfront (both
in the royal district called the Brucheion)
and the daughter Library in the Temple of Serapis (the Serapeum).
The Library expanded to include all the
knowledge in the ancient world. The library at its zenith may have
had over 700,000 scrolls, and attracted men of letters,
intellectuals, scientists and scholars, inter alia:
-Aristarchus, the first to proclaim that the earth revolves around
-Hipparchus, the first to measure the solar year with six and a half
minutes accuracy. -Eratosthenes, the first to measure the
circumference of the earth.
-Euclid, who wrote the elements of geometry.
-Archimedes, the greatest mathematician of the Ancient World.
-Callimachus, a poet, and the first to write a catalogue for books
classified by topic and author, thereby becoming the father of
The Ancient Library of Alexandria was open to
all civilizations. Systematic efforts were made to collect the best
works from all over the world, and any ships that docked in
Alexandria were searched, and any books on board were copied.
Scholars from all over the world were invited to come. The Old
Testament was translated for the first time from Hebrew to Greek.
Thus, the Ancient Library of Alexandria in its
first centuries was a mixture of all civilizations, and languages,
however the Greek language was most dominant (as English is today).
No doubt, the role of Greek thought and philosophy was remarkable in
formulating the Hellenistic civilization, for which Alexandria with
its great Library was the intellectual capital.
The genius of the Hellenistic Culture was to
combine the glory of Ancient Greek (Hellenic) cultures with Egyptian
and Asian cultures. It was an enriching result. To the question: Was
Alexandrian culture and scholarship Greek or Egyptian? The answer is
both. Both peoples should be proud of it.
The Library was not destroyed by the invading
Arabs as some stories would have us believe. It was destroyed much
earlier, through a long decline punctuated with fires and
destruction over four and a half centuries. The first fire came
about during the Alexandrian War, when Julius Caesar burnt the
Egyptian fleet in 48 B.C. and the fire inadvertently spread to the
library buildings near the docks. During the upheavals of the Roman
Empire in the third century of our era, Alexandria suffered many
upheavals and suppressions which led to the city being invaded by
roman armies several times and the whole royal district where the
old Library and Museum were located was destroyed. Alexandrian
scholarships moved to the daughter library in the temple of Serapis
(the Serapeum) in the southwest corner of the city. That too
succumbed to destruction in a wave of anti-pagan actions and the
rest of the Library was burnt in the Serapeum in 391 A.D. Hypathia
(the Mathematician) and the daughter of the Library's last recorded
scholar was brutally murdered by the mob in 415 AD bringing a final
stop to the seven centuries of Alexandrian scholarship. That was 230
years before Arnr Ibn El Aas entered Egypt at the head of the first
Arab Muslim army.
Though 1600 years have elapsed since the age of
the Ancient Library of Alexandria came to an end, all scholars and
scientists still acknowledge their debt to that remarkable
institution and look with admiration on the role played by the
Ancient Library as a center for dialogue and tolerance as well as
science and learning.
history of Alexandria across the ages
Alexandria was built in the shape of a
chessboard. It was divided into five districts, the most important
was the Royal District, which holds the Museum, the Great Library of
Alexandria, the lighthouse and the Sema, which is the funerary
temple where Alexander the Great was buried.
Dar El Hekma, and the library were centers
spreading culture to the Hellenistic world. They were also a meeting
point for scientists, great philosophers and men of letters from
various countries. Among Alexandria's scientists we find
Hermophilus, the great surgeon and Hipparchus considered father of
astronomy, and Archimedes of Syracuse the physicst and others. The
fame of Alexandria's Library surpassed that of Dar El Hekma as it
contained about 700 thousand biblia.
It was the first public library owned by the
state in the ancient world. We can definitely state that Alexandria
was the center of science, literature and art in the Hellenistic
world during the three centuries of the Ptolomaic rule.
This page of history was folded when the
Ptolomaic state ended at the hands of Emperor Augustus, following
the battle of Actium in 30 BC, when Alexandria became the
headquarters of the Roman Prefect until the Arab conquest in the 7th
century AD. Alexandrians role did not stop at revolutions and
sarcasm, they had a vital role in supporting rebels and those who
wanted to defy the Emperor. They helped Vaspasion to reach the
throne in 69 AD. Failure of the rebels led the Roman emperors to
avenge themselves on the Alexandrians, an example is what happened
during the rule of Marcus Orerllius (161 -180) and Sipherios (193 -
Greek influence prevailed during the Roman
rule. Greek was the official language of Egypt. From the religious
perspective the Alexandrian triad made up of Serapis, Isis and
Harpocratis deified by the ptolemies remained the most prominent
among the Gods during the Roman era.
Christianity spread in Egypt at this period and
Copts, experienced religious persecutions which were at their worse
during the rule of Diocletion, which was referred to as The Age of
Canope bath water cisterns, Roman cemeteries,
El Anfoushi cemetery, Koum El Shogafa.
In the second half of the 7th century following
the Arab conquest of Egypt, when the country was beginning a new
era, Alexandria was no longer the capital of the country due to the
foundation of Fostat. Accordingly, Alexandria lost its old
importance as it broke off from the Roman World.
It also retained its commercial prominence
because of its outstanding location that made it the most
substantial trade point between the east and the west. The number of
mansions, palaces, mosques, schools, famous shrines increased,
Alexandria, persisted as the core of knowledge, culture and the
sciences through her scholars and scientists who came from the east
and the west.
During the period of independence as from the
Abassid State, the Tulunid State (254 -282 HD -868 -905 AD), the
Akshid State (323 -357 ~D I 995 -968 AD), Fatimid State (358 -567
HDI 969 - 1172 AD), Egypt managed to formulate its own independent
identity which reached its peak during the Fatimid period.
Alexandria’s Sunken Treasures
During certain geological occurrences, namely
a series of violent earthquakes and certain historical outcomes, the
northern parts of the city were affected and sunk below the depth of
the sea, resulting in water encircling an incredible treasure. The
heritage of the sunken city in the area near the Royal District and
or El Ebrahemia and Mostafa Kamel. The tremendous importance of
sunken antiquities can be deduced if we consider the large sunken
port below the rocks of Pharos Island, and to the south west of it,
taking into consideration the fact that the waters of the
Mediterranean have risen two meters since the Roman period.
Actual excavation for sunken antiquities in
Egypt started in the gulf of Abu Qir in 1933. Serious work connected
with identifying Alexandria's sunken antiquities did not start in
the Royal District until 1961 AD when the late diver Kamal Aboul
Saadat reported seeing sunken monuments in the depth of the eastern
port area, facing the coast of "Silsilah" and Kait Bey citadel.
The antiquities department, with the help of
the naval forces, who were participating for the first time
officially, salvaged a granite statue of a man wearing a cloak that
covered most of his body. The statue was 170 cm in height and was
discovered in the first half of November 1962 AD.
In October 1995, the expedition of the National
French Center for Studies, began by making a survey of the depth of
the sea. The expedition comprised thirty Egyptian and French divers
specialized in underwater topographical surveys as well as
architectural hauling and restoration. They conducted their work in
an area of about 2.5 feddans facing Kait Bey Citadel.
The Egyptian-Greek expedition recently worked
at the area between El Ebrahemia and Sidi Gaber where it found huge
tanks carved in the rock.
The continuous excavations under water will
clearly reveal the unknown history of the city by time.
The Bibliotheca Alexandria (Facts & Figures)
Bibliotheca Alexandrina is located on a magnificent site in the
Eastern Harbor, facing the sea on the north, and Alexandria
University Complex on its southern side.
overlooks the Silsilah Peninsula. It is very close to the location
of the Old Library in the Brucheion (the Ancient Royal Quarter), as
verified by the 1993 archeological survey.
Total floor areas -85,405 m2
Universal Library -36,770 m2
Cultural Activities -4210 m2
Technical Services and Operational Support -10,860 m2
International School of Information Studies (ISIS) -3500 m2
Conference Center Ancillary Services, Other Areas -30,840 m2
Books: 200,000 at inauguration 1 up to 8 million ultimately
Audio 1 Visual 1 Multimedia Materials:
Manuscripts & Rare Books: 10,000/50,000
Computer Data Bases: OPAC, Internet access to the information
Library of Alexandria complex includes: the Main Library, Young
Peoples' Library, Library for the Blind, Planetarium, Science
Museum, Calligraphy Museum, Alexandria Archeological Museum,
International School of Information Studies (ISIS), Conservation andRestoration
Laboratory, Conference Center of Alexandria and Ancillary Services,
Multipurpose Rooms and Exhibition areas.
These can be changed or augmented as needs evolve.
Foundations & Geotechnical Engineering)
Contractors: Rodiorrrevi (Italy) / Arab Contractors (Egypt)
construction work began on 15/05/1995 and was completed on
31/12/1996, at the cost of US$ 59 million. The construction work
involved the most advanced technology.
largest circular reinforced Diaphragm Wall in the world, 160 m
diameter, was a major engineering achievement, along with more than
600 bored bell-bottom piles.
(TP2/3: Structures, Services, Fit-Out and External Works)
Contractors: Halfour Heatty (UK) 1 Arab
work began on 27/12/1996, at the cost of US$ 117 million.
Architects/Engineers (Consultant to the HA): Snohetta a.s. (Norway)/
Hamza Associates (Egypt).