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Grab a book! MENA’s Most Ancient Libraries

What’s the one thing every book-lover can relate to? The smell of books and the smooth texture of the pages. Libraries vary in size and purpose depending on the country and culture and they are not only a trip into history, but also a reminder of the past. The older they get, the more attractive they are to the lover within us. Check out the world’s four most ancient libraries located in the Middle East!

  1. Al Qarawiyyin Library

Founded by Fatima Al Fihri, the Qarawiyyin library is located in Morocco and it is the oldest library in the world! The library is famous for being founded by a woman, which is a rare occurrence from the past. It has the oldest life account of Prophet Mohammad and the Islamic legal system. Also, it has the only 9th century Quran written in kufic calligraphy still in its original binding.

photo credit: Getty images
Photo credit: Getty images

 2. The Royal library of Alexandria

One of the world’s most ancient libraries, the Royal Library was located in Egypt and founded by Ptolemy. Known for its variety of original texts and sources, the library was visited by scholars, writers and philosophers to seek knowledge. Some scholars even lived there to conduct research!

It is argued that the library was burnt by either Julius Ceaser or Theophilus for disputed reasons and records were lost.


3.The library of King Ashurbanipal

One of the first systematically organized libraries, the library of King Ashurbanipal, is located in Iraq and founded by the King himself in 600’s BCE. It contained a large amount of cuneiform texts of various topics arranged by subject such as history, law, magic and science. What makes the library unique is its resemblance to a modern library: each column is organized by a certain category.

Although most paper records were lost in a fire, luckily the clay records were preserved and exist till today.

Photo credit: Ashur sada
Photo credit: Ashur Sada

4. Celsus Library

The Roman library Celsus, located in Turkey, was built by Gaius Julius Aquila in 110 CE. This library was built in honor of Julius Celsus and his tomb is found beneath the library!

Photo credit: Selcuk Izmir Turkey

With the recent rise of technology, books have been widely neglected, especially in the Middle East. So pack your bags and take a journey to your closest libraries!

Don’t forget to leave a smile 🙂


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