Sunday, November 05, 2006

#72 The city with THE library - Alexandria

On our voyage, Egypt is the only country where we stop in two ports. So although our arrival in our second Egyptian port, Alexandria, is not accompanied by the familiar routine of pre-port meetings and hoards of disembarking students, this is the port I’ve most anticipated. I make sure Bibliotheca Alexandrina anticipation fills the air in Cabin 5046. Our city orientation tour includes an afternoon stop at THE library. So we first “endure” four stops: 1) a centuries-old catacomb; 2) a treasure-filled museum; 3) an emperor’s palace; and 4) lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean near a fort built with stones salvaged from one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Once all that hooey was thankfully out of the way, then we could get down to business.
3929f Biblio panorama with text

3938f Locals visiting the library
How often do you get the chance to wait in line to enter a library? Kelly tells me that experience did nothing but heighten the anticipation for him and I’m sure the students agreed completely.

This library is a stunner. It’s built near the site of the original library founded in the 3rd century. The new building opened in 2002 with shelf space for 10 million items. The main reading room is eleven levels of open space overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It’s something of an international attempt to recreate the glory and scholarship of the ancient library.
3946f Biblio main reading room

They treat visiting librarians well, giving Erika and me (and Kelly) a private tour of the huge place led by Sherine, a business librarian. So we heard all the info, good and bad, about this library but are inclined to only put the good in writing.
4107f Erika Sherine Mary

I’ve visited libraries in almost every port without encountering folks from our ship, but here in Alexandria, THE library was a center of Semester At Sea activity.

Yours in library heaven,


  1. Mary, I'm curious to know what kind of ancient texts they might have in that library.

  2. Mary, I'll be in touch for a full report on the Alexandria Library when you return!