Standing on the Alexandrian Corniche, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a vast and striking example of modern 21st century architecture, but the building recalls something much older. The library and cultural center were inaugurated in 2002 as part of a huge project to commemorate the city of Alexandria’s legacy as an ancient center of world learning and culture.
The Great Library of Alexandria was founded in the 3rd century BC, shortly after the founding of the city as a new capital of Egypt by Alexander the Great. It is considered one of the greatest accomplishments in the legacy of ancient Alexandria since the library and the Mouseion, the larger institution of learning of which the library was a part, are credited with preserving most of the knowledge of the ancient world. It is not known when exactly the Great Library and the Mouseion were destroyed, but the date is placed sometime around the beginning of the Roman Era in Egypt (31 BC). No one knows how much ancient knowledge was lost in the fire that destroyed the library.
The modern complex seeks to rekindle the intellectual light that once shown from Alexandria. The library itself boasts of a huge and visually stunning main reading room and space for storage of nearly 9 million books, but the complex also houses several smaller specialized libraries, a conference center, art galleries for both permanent and temporary exhibitions, and a planetarium. The exterior of the building is decorated with the characters of 120 different written languages as a reference to the wealth of knowledge from around the world once housed in the Great Library.