Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The *New* Great Library of Alexandria

Have you ever dreamed of wandering through the Great Library of Ancient Alexandria? Unrolling a papyrus scroll written by Cleopatra in one of the nine languages she spoke? Hob-knobbing with Aristotle in the world's first think tank?

Well, you can. Sort of.

Today's visitor to Alexandria, Egypt can visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a modern-day recreation of the great library of the ancients. And this creation is definitely worth a visit. But for those who can't toddle off to Egypt this week, I offer here a photo tour instead.

One can spend an hour or more exploring the breathtaking architecture of the library. The building is modern and imposing, and it was designed to appear as if the library is sinking into the sea - a nod to the loss of its ancient counterpart. Indeed, one must cross a short bridge to access the library, passing by the "sinking" dome and approaching the tall structure.
The Library at Alexandria, Egypt
Exterior Spires
The Sinking Library
Waking Across the Bridge to the Library
The dome of the planetarium is prominently visible from the outside (although no photos were allowed from the inside!) Here we see the planetarium dome and the library's bust of Alexander the Great.

Planetarium of the Library
Bust of Alexander the Great with Planetarium Dome
The granite walls surrounding the library are inscribed in hundreds of languages. Even Cleopatra would have been awed! We see another tribute to literacy in the "big read" book bench, which happens to be open to a page written in Arabic on the left page and English on the right page. Within the library, the theme continues: one can find a manuscript museum and a legendary rare books collection. There is even a Nobel collection, dedicated exclusively to the works of Nobel laureates like our own Jeff Wilson.

The library features several tributes to the science of the ancients, including a planetarium, a History of Science Museum, and this marble sundial (below.) 
Marble Sundial

Arabic and English Descriptions of Sundial
English Description of Sundial
The interior of the library is bright and modern, taking advantage of the Mediterranean sun as a natural light source through a crystalline network of windows. The "library" is so much more than a library, featuring several art galleries, an IMAX theater, a museum of antiquities, an Alexandria and Mediterranean research center, and a center for Hellenistic studies, among many other resources.
The Library at Dusk

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. 


  1. Thanks for the memories! I spent a couple of afternoons at the library while working in Egypt a few years ago. I always tell people how impressed I was with it --- definitely one of the most beautiful modern spots I saw in the whole country.

    1. Elliott, I agree! So many people overlook Alexandria on their Egypt trip, but I thought it was awesome. And...a welcome change from the stifling heat everywhere else to boot LOL