The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, on Alexandria’s Mediterranean seafront, was opened in 2002 and while it is indisputably a building with books in it, that’s where the comparisons with your local municipal library end.
This vast structure, dominated by the sloping disc which forms the roof of the multi-leveled reading room, is not only an ambitious repository of learning but also the most important 21st century building in Egypt. Its location is highly significant; not only is Alexandria Egypt’s traditional window on the world, it was also the site of library which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world before its destruction in…well actually, no-one can actually agree when it was destroyed. Guesses range from 48 BC to the start of the Muslim era.
You won’t need a library card to access the major attractions in the complex, which include a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Antiquities Museum boasts numerous ancient pieces from the Pharaonic period onward, including some which were unearthed during work on the library site.
There are collections of rare manuscripts, a museum of science and an exhibition of items associated with slain Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, including the blood-stained uniform in which he died. Other exhibitions cover 20th century and contemporary Egyptian art, a range of graphic works representing foreigners’ views of Alexandria, Arabic calligraphy, and Egypt’s earliest printed works. There is also a planetarium which brings the night sky to life with IMAX projections. And if you’re after some light reading, you can browse through a complete back-up of the Internet.
Your lasting impression, however, is sure to be the building itself, whose scale is as audacious as its design.