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The very name of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina conjures up the image of a glorious past, of a shared heritage, not just between Greece and Egypt, nor even of the whole Mediterranean, but a shared heritage for all of humanity. For it was indeed at the Ancient Library of Alexandria that the greatest adventure of the human intellect was to unfold.

Alexander selected the site for a new capital: Alexandria. His successors in Egypt, the Ptolemies, built Alexandria, and made it the intellectual capital of the world. Its lighthouse, the Pharos, was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

2300 years ago, Alexander the Great, Aristotle’s pupil, brought his dream of culture and conquest, of uniting the world and launching a new era to the timeless land of Egypt. Alexander selected the site for a new capital: Alexandria. His successors in Egypt, the Ptolemies, built Alexandria, and made it the intellectual capital of the world. Its lighthouse, the Pharos, was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. But a greater legacy was the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Launched in 288 BC by Ptolemy I (Soter) under the guidance of Demetrius of Phaleron, the temple to the muses or Mouseion (in Greek), or museum (in Latin) was part academy, part research center, and part library. The great thinkers of the age, scientists, mathematicians, poets from all civilizations came to study and exchange ideas.

As many as 700,000 scrolls, the equivalent of more than 100,000 modern printed books, filled the shelves. The library was open to scholars from all cultures. Girls and boys studied regularly at the Ancient Library. On this very spot:

Aristarchus was the first person to state that the earth revolves around the sun, a full 1800 years before Copernicus;
Eratosthenes proved that the earth was spherical and calculated its circumference with amazing accuracy, 1700 years before Columbus sailed on his epic voyage
Hipparchus established the first atlas of the stars and calculated the length of the solar year accurately to within 6.5 minutes
Callimachus the poet described the texts in the library organized by subject and author, becoming the father of library science,
Euclid wrote his elements of geometry, the basic text studied in schools all over the world even now
Herophylus identified the brain as the controlling organ of the body and launched a new era of medicine
Manetho chronicled the pharaohs and organized Egyptian history into the dynasties we use to this day
Zenodotus and the grammarians established the basics of literary scholarship with their meticulous definition of the Homerian text for the Iliad and the Odyssey

And the list of great names and great achievements goes on and on… Diophantes, Appolonius of Perga, Heron and visiting scholars such as Archimedes… They and many others were all members of that amazing community of scholars that mapped

the heavens, organized the calendar, established the foundations of science and pushed the boundaries of our knowledge. They opened up the cultures of the world, established a true dialogue of civilizations. Indeed, it was at the ancient Library of Alexandria that 72 specialists first translated The Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek (the famous Septuagint).
Together these scholars promoted rationality, tolerance and understanding and organized universal knowledge. For over six centuries the ancient Library of Alexandria epitomized the zenith of learning, as later scholars such as Claudius, Ptolemy, and Dioscoredes built on that explosion of knowledge and added their contributions.

To this day the Bibliotheca Alexandrina symbolizes the noblest aspirations of the human mind, global ecumenism, and the greatest achievements of the intellect. The library completely disappeared over sixteen hundred years ago… but it continues to inspire scientists and scholars everywhere.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was located in at least three buildings: (i) the original Muesum in the royal district of the city, (ii) an additional building mostly for book storage, located on the harbor, and (iii) a “daughter Library” located in the Serapeum, the temple to Serapis, cult god of Alexandria. The Serapeum was located in the southwest part of the city, the popular quarter.
The Library disappeared slowly, suffering a slow decline from the time of Caesar and Cleopatra. The first disaster was in 48 B.C., when the part of the library located at the harbor was accidentally set afire during the Alexandrian war of Julius Caesar.

However, Marc Anthony gave Cleopatra the 200,000 scrolls of Pergamon to make up for the losses. Yet, subsequent upheavals within the Roman Empire resulted in the gradual neglect and ultimate destruction of the library. Christianity was brought to Africa through Alexandria by St. Marc in the first century AD, and it was followed by merciless and brutal persecution of the Christians by the Romans in the first three centuries. Roman armies came to Alexandria to restore order several times between 200 and 300 AD, and it was on one of those occasions, (probably the campaign of Aurelius in 272 AD) that the entire royal quarter and the original Museum were destroyed. Persecution of Christians ceased with the conversion of Constantine the Great, but schisms erupted in the church. Tensions were running high and tolerant church fathers such Clement of Alexandria had to eave the city and his disciple Origen suffered much for his views. In 391 AD, Emperor Theodosius issued a decree banning all religions other than Christianity and Christian Groups under Bishop Theophilus burnt the Serapeum in 391 AD. This was the end of the ancient library as a public institution.

For a time, the scholars maintained in an uneasy co-existence with an increasingly militant Christian mob. But tragedy struck in 415 AD. Hypatia, daughter of Theon, the last recorded scholar in Alexandria herself the first woman in mathematics and astronomy, a neo-Platonist philosopher and charismatic orator was brutally murdered by the mob in 415 AD. She became the first martyr to science.
Thus by 400 A.D. the Library had vanished, and the era of Alexandrian scholarship came to an end a few years later. It had thus disappeared over two centuries before the arrival of the Muslim Arab armies in 641 AD.

But the memory of the ancient Library of Alexandria lived on. It continued to inspire scholars and humanists everywhere. Many dreamt of one day reviving the great Library…
Sixteen hundred years later, under the auspices of President Hosni Mubarak, and with the continuous untiring support of Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, the library comes to life again.

From Aswan in 1990, where world leaders joined Egypt in declaring their commitment to turn the dream to reality, what was only an idea has come to life. With support from UNESCO, the bold new architectural vision conceived by a young team of designers based in Norway was adopted. They joined forces with Egyptian Engineering talent, and the vision took shape and was realized by Italian, British and Egyptian contractors. All hands joined together to build a magnificent new structure to house the new library on land donated by the University of Alexandria from whence scholars’ calls for the revival of the library had been championed for three decades.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the New Library of Alexandria, has been dedicated to recapture the spirit of the original. It aspires to be:

The World’s window on Egypt;
Egypt’s window on the world;
A leading institution of the digital age; and, above all;
A center for learning, tolerance, dialogue and understanding.

To fulfill that role, the new complex is much more than a library. It contains:

A library that can hold millions of books;
A center for the Internet and its archive;
Six specialized libraries for (i) audio-visual materials, (ii), the visually impaired, (iii) children, (iv) the young, (v) microforms, and (vi) rare books and special collections;
Three Museums for (i) antiquities, (ii) manuscripts, and (iii) the history of science;
A planetarium;
An ALEXploratorium for children’s exposure to science;
Three permanent exhibitions;
Five art galleries for temporary exhibitions;
A conference center for thousands of persons;
Seven research institutes covering (i) manuscripts, (ii) documentation of heritage, (iii) calligraphy and writing, (iv) information sciences, (v) Mediterranean and Alexandrian studies, (vi) arts, and (vii) scientific research; and
A discussion forum

Today, this vast complex is a reality, receiving more than 750,000 visitors a year.


The greatness of the Ancient Library resided as much in the remarkable community of scholars that it had helped create as in the vast collection of manuscripts it assembled. They represented the best in the World of their time. So, to recapture the spirit of the ancient Museum, we have established the ABA, whose purposes include:

The promotion of excellence in science and the arts;
Helping build international goodwill, primarily through collaborations between scientists, scholars and artists;
Spreading the values of science, and the culture of science in Egypt and the region;
Fostering openness to the cultures of others, through inter-cultural dialogue;
Encouraging tolerance, rationality and dialogue;

To achieve these purposes, the ABA will, through its membership and secretariat, create and maintain an international network of scientists, artists and scholars dedicated to these goals. The actual work of the organization will be to:

Organize lectures, conferences and exhibitions;
Organize expert panels around certain themes of general interest;
Publish reports and proceedings;
Encourage cross-disciplinary studies and collaborations;
Suggest improvements in curricula for science, mathematics and the arts; and
Assist in the identification of young talent.

In all its activities, the ABA shall seek to collaborate with other academies in other countries; it will also seek involvement with, and where appropriate, membership in, the international organizations dealing with sciences and arts, such as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 'UNESCO', International Council for Science 'ICSU' (previously International Council of Scientific Unions), the InterAcademy Panel “IAP”, Inter Academy Council 'IAC', Third World Academy of Science 'TWAS'.

The ABA will uphold the values that made the ancient Library a beacon of freedom, and it will encourage a similar commitment to excellence in the pursuit of learning. Through its collegial membership, it will promote a network of international scholars whose goodwill towards the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and all it stands for will be given a strong voice.

The ABA has been created in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) by the powers vested in its Board of Trustees (BoT) by Law No.1 of 2001 and Presidential Decree 76 of 2001. BoT Resolutions No. 15 (2001) and 51 (2003) mandate the Director of the BA to pursue the creation of the ABA, with a secretariat to be housed at the BA in Alexandria. The ABA thus derives from the same unique statutory construct that created the BA itself.

The ABA shall be a non-profit, membership driven body, with up to 100 members drawn from all over the world. These will be organized into three broad sections:

The Natural Sciences (including mathematics and astronomy): with up to 50 members
The Social Sciences (including Law, Economics and Psychology): with up to 30 members
The Arts (including art history and criticism): with up to 20 members.

A self-selected Group of eminent individuals will act as founding members. They will thereafter establish the criteria for selection of new members. New members must be nominated by at least two members in their appropriate section, and shall be accepted if elected by two thirds of the group’s membership and ratified by at least half of the entire membership of the ABA.
Each of the three sections described above shall elect a chairperson, who will also be a Vice-President of the ABA. The whole membership will elect a President and a Secretary-General, plus two at-large representatives for the ABA as a whole. These seven individuals shall constitute the Board of the ABA, and half its members will constitute a quorum. Decisions will be by majority vote of those present and voting, and the Board shall meet at least once a year. The Secretary-General of the ABA shall also be its treasurer. Terms shall be for three years renewable once, and be staggered so that no more than three of the seven members may be renewed in any one year.

The ABA (or any of the sections therein) may create ad-hoc and permanent committees of its membership as appropriate to discharge its responsibilities. Remote voting can be undertaken electronically or by mail. Administrative decisions by the membership at large, by the Board, or by any of the ABA committees, may be made on a no-objection basis.


The ABA was formally launched in Alexandria, Egypt in April 2004.

Contact us:
Bibliotheca Alexandrina
P.O. Box 138
El Chatby, Alexandria 21526, EGYPT
Phone: +(203) 4839999
Fax: +(203) 4879422
E-mail: aba@bibalex.org


Bibliotheca Alexandrina