Monday July 22nd, 2024
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The Most Beautiful Libraries in the Middle East to Visit

These Middle Eastern libraries, from ancient to modern, showcase the region's literary traditions and commitment to knowledge.

Hassan Tarek

The Most Beautiful Libraries in the Middle East to Visit

Throughout the Middle East’s storied and striking history, libraries have served as eternal monuments, both celebrating and commemorating knowledge, culture, and architectural heritage.

From the ancient to the contemporary, these institutions have, for decades and centuries, showcased not only the region's profound literary traditions but also its enduring commitment to scholarship and enlightenment.

Settling on a mere six of the most captivating libraries in the Middle East might be a daunting task but it’s one we’ve successfully undertaken, and it’s one that’s resulted in the above list of regional literary hubs that are most definitely worth visiting on your next trip.


Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina bridges ancient wisdom and modern scholarship, echoing the legacy of the ancient Library of Alexandria, which was once the pinnacle of intellectual achievement.


Today's Bibliotheca Alexandrina, with its six specialized libraries and four museums, offers shelf space for over 8,000,000 books.

Orient-Institut Beirut, Lebanon

With 140,000 volumes and 90,000 electronic resources, this library is a multilingual treasure trove for researchers, specifically those dedicated to Near and Middle Eastern Studies.

The library also features the Max Weber Digital Library Collection, offering diverse humanities resources, which are primarily in Arabic but are also available in English, French, German, Armenian, Persian and more.

Finally, the library’s reading room, which features state-of-the-art amenities, provides a quiet space for peace-seeking readers to lose themselves in a good book, as they lounge in the garden terrace.

Al-Qarawiyyin Library, Morocco

The al-Qarawiyyin Library is a quiet marvel, a challenge to the commonly held assumptions about women's roles in Muslim civilization. It was Fatima El-Fihriya, daughter of a wealthy immigrant from al-Qayrawan, who founded this institution. She was educated, devout, and resolute in her vow to spend her entire inheritance on a mosque and a center of knowledge for her community. In her vision, she saw a place, where minds could meet and expand, and where the pursuit of learning would be paramount. UNESCO recognizes the result as the oldest operational educational institution in the world.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Saudi Arabia

The library at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is a standout feature of this landmark by the Saudi Aramco Oil Company, aimed at promoting cultural development, knowledge, and diversity in the Kingdom.

Since its opening in 2018, the center has provided the local population and visitors with unprecedented access to a wide range of learning and cultural facilities. The library, one of the largest public libraries in the region, boasts over 315,000 physical books for all ages in both Arabic and English.

Additionally, it hosts a series of learning programs, including workshops and book clubs for children, making it a vibrant hub for education and community engagement.

Greater Cairo Library, Egypt

The Greater Cairo Public Library in Zamalek, inaugurated on January 24th, 1995, occupies the historic late nineteenth-century residence of Princess Samiha Kamel. Over the past decade, the library has significantly grown, now welcoming around 600 visitors daily.

It offers innovative services such as information via telephone and fax, the Information Technology Club, and selective information broadcasting.

As Egypt's largest public library, it publishes a variety of books and studies and hosts vibrant cultural and artistic activities for all ages, widely covered by the media. Established by the Ministry of Culture, the library serves as a hub for researchers, scholars, and the general public.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library in Dubai, designed in the shape of a rehl – the traditional wooden book rest used to hold the Quran – is a striking edifice overlooking Dubai Creek.

This seven-story structure, with its ten main collections, has been a sanctuary of learning since its founding in 2014.

Inside, visitors find a vast array of historical manuscripts, contemporary works, ebooks, and other digital media.

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