Le Figaro: A report on the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and an interview with Dr. Serageldin

Posted on

In its issue dated Thursday 25 April 2002, Le Figaro; the well known French newspaper wrote a full report about the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The report was further followed by an interview with Dr. Ismail Serageldin.

The article focused on the building of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and its interior and exterior architectural design. It illustrated the tilted circular shape of the Library as a symbol of the eternal sun, which is always ready to receive the various kinds of knowledge and to transmit them through the Mediterranean basin to the entire world.

The writer of the article was very impressed with the architecture of the building. As we proceed through the article, the writer expressed her great interest and understanding of the different symbols of this building. For example, the bridge that links the Bibliotheca Alexandrina to the University of Alexandria from one side, and endlessly to the Mediterranean from the other side, is a tangible reflection of the unlimited freedom of thinking, which is based on correct scientific basis. The writer also illustrated the importance of the magnificent granite wall that surrounds the Bibliotheca Alexandrina carrying the various inscriptions of various alphabets, which in turn reflects the position that the Library aims at attaining in the field of science and knowledge.

The article then proceeds to the diverse buildings which surround the Library, such as the Planetarium, the Alexandria Conference Center, the Research Institutes, the museums like the Science Museum, the International School for Information Studies (ISIS) and the Restoration Laboratory. This diversity and multiplicity gives the Bibliotheca Alexandrina a sense of integrity.

The writer then describes the interior of the 10-floor building of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in addition to the large reading hall, which is designed to hold more than 2000 readers and is thus one of the greatest reading halls of the world, equipped with the most modern forms of technology and furniture. The writer further describes the decorative dimension of the hall, which is although supported by the most modern technologies, has 98 columns with capitals taking the shape of the Egyptian lotus. She was also amazed with the penetration of the direct sunrays through the different floors of the Library.

The writer believes that this magnificent cultural forum required courage, intrepidity and a strong will. Dr. Mostafa El-Abbadi and Dr. Lotfy Dowidar initiated the idea, which was immediately adopted by President Mohamed Hosny Mubarak who placed the corner stone of that great project upon obtaining the support of the UNESCO in 1988. The Aswan Declaration in 1990 represented an appeal to revive the Ancient Library of Alexandria. The total costs of the project amounted to 225 million dollars, of which 100 million dollars were in the form of international donations, of which 65 million dollars were donations from United Arab Emirates, Iraq and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The writer shed light on the French donations in this great project which reached 5.8 million French francs in total, of which the majority was in the French support to the library information system. France also donated to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina important book collections, such as “La Pleiade”, in addition to 2000 books of the most precious editions of the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology (Institut Français d""Archéologie Orientale - IFAO). The writer mentioned that almost third of the employees working at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina are French-speaking and that official releases are published in three languages: Arabic, English and French.

The writer briefly listed the donations of the other countries like Norway, Italy, Japan, Germany and Spain.

The report was further followed by an interview with Dr. Ismail Serageldin:

  • Some people believe that poor countries should have priorities other than establishing a library like the Bibliotheca Alexandrina…what do you think?
    There is not a single nation in the entire world where development is not strongly related to culture. The goal of this library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, is the dissemination of science and knowledge. On the other hand, I would like to emphasize that Egypt is not considered a poor country, its history, heritage, culture and the well-known Egyptian scientists prove the contrary. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina shall be the Library of the twenty-first century as well as a revival of the Ancient Library of Alexandria which was built more than 2300 years ago. It was thus impossible for Egypt not to respond to such a great project which was highly supported by the international community.

  • What was the type of users that the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has received during its soft opening?
    First, I would like to say that the soft opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina was received by an unprecedented interest that goes far beyond being a curiosity associated with the importance of such event. This is not an exaggeration, everybody noticed it. The public reached 10000 users/visitors daily, most of them were youth and students. Egypt is enriched with its youth and the library is located near the University of Alexandria. However this does not deny the fact that the public was of different kinds and specialties.

  • What do you wish to hear from the people about the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in the future?
    I wish that the Bibliotheca Alexandrina shall be a center of excellence for the highest intellectual & scientific human achievements. I also wish that it shall be one of the most important forums for discussion and intellectual exchange between cultures, especially between the peoples of the Mediterranean, as well as a point of respect of all cultures and civilizations, a library that avails all forms of ancient and recent knowledge, and a witness of the greatest and most precious scientific discoveries.