His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, officially inaugurated the Qatar National Library (QNL) at a grand opening ceremony of its new building in Education City this week. The event was also attended by HH the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation (QF).
HH The Emir commemorated the event by signing the official inauguration certificate, which will be mounted to a plaque, and which will be placed at the library’s one-millionth book, a rare 843-year-old manuscript copy of Sahih Al Bukhari, on the shelves of QNL.
HH Sheikha Moza’s Opening Address
In her opening address, HH Sheikha Moza said that the inauguration of QNL invokes a great sense of historical pride and belonging to the Arab world, which pioneered writing, transcription, and libraries in Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago. She said that the idea of the National Library was inspired by this glorious history, in hopes of restoring an Arab renaissance. The library, according to her, was established to be a treasury of written history and a medium for the transfer of knowledge between different cultures.
Essentially, it will be an institution of reference for Arabic and Islamic heritage and a platform for spreading contemporary intellectual and literary thought. Designed in form and content to be three-dimensional: a national library, a public library, and a research library in one. As an advanced digital library, it will allow users immediate access to accurate information. It will provide new generations with the necessary, intellectual tools to read and interpret history correctly.’
Sheikha Moza also discussed the role of the library in the promotion of Arabic language.
Given that books are a vessel through which civilisations preserve language, we aspire to make this library a modern mechanism to revive the Arabic language and to re-establish its presence as a marker of civilisation. Through a new interpretation of our heritage, we can restore the days when Arabic was the universal language of the Middle Ages. When it was synonymous with science and culture, and a source of pride. It was a well-known fact: You speak Arabic, then you are educated.’
Sheikha Moza acknowledged the ‘unwavering vision’ of the country’s leadership, which ‘from the reign of the father to the son, supports sustainable and strategic development projects, particularly in human development.’
A Special Inaugural Ceremony
Guests were welcomed into the library on a bespoke LED carpet, which took invitees through a virtual journey of Qatar landmarks. After a special presentation marking the inaugural moment, poet Tamim Al-Barghouti gave a speech titled ‘It is still possible’, followed by a film showing QNL’s journey from concept to grand opening, and a speech by the library’s lead architect, Rem Koolhaas, who spoke about the architecture of cultural institutions.
The event continued with a video message featuring numerous library directors from around the world congratulating QNL on its opening. Roly Keating, CEO of the British Library, gave a speech on the importance of libraries; Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, delivered a speech titled ‘Where Bits and Atoms Meet’; and an interactive map showed the 52 countries from which guests were visiting.
The event concluded with a performance of the musical piece ‘Sounds of the Library’, by Qatari composer Dana Al Fardan.
QF Community Development President Machaille Al-Naimi, said the unveiling of QNL to the world is a reflection of Qatar’s vision for the future, and the result of a collective effort to preserve the country’s rich culture and heritage.
We are deeply honoured to be able to offer a greater insight into the Arab world through our vast collection of resources.’
QNL opened its doors to the public in November 2017 and has since welcomed more than 200,000 visitors, and held hundreds of events for visitors of all ages, ranging from early literacy programmes for children to research workshops. The library’s collection includes one million books in English, Arabic, and other languages, complemented by a dedicated Children’s Library and Young Adults collection.
The QNL Heritage Library collection includes rare and valuable items related to Arab and Islamic civilisation. Its collection has more than 50,000 items, including manuscripts, early printed books, historical maps, globes, photographs, and scientific instruments.
Over the next two weeks, QNL will be hosting a series of public lectures, exhibitions and events, including the inauguration of the Heritage Library exhibition.
For more information about QNL, visit their website at qnl.qa.