A new world class library was officially opened in Alexandria, Egypt, Wednesday. But this is not the first great library in the ancient city founded by Alexander the Great.
Two thousand years ago, Bibliotheca Alexandrina was among the first and most celebrated centers of learning in human history. But 1600 years ago, during the time of the Roman Empire, the library was destroyed by fire. Its 700,000 volumes were lost.
The ceremony on Wednesday was to mark the return of a great library to the ancient city of Alexandria.
With the Mediterranean Sea as its backdrop, the 11-story structure rises out of the ground as a giant granite and glass disc slightly tilted toward the sea. Its developers said the design is intended to reflect the quest for knowledge.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak inaugurated the library, saying it has great significance as a modern example of peaceful coexistence. Mr. Mubarak said the region had suffered from bloody disputes and conflicts. He asked that the library be considered a new beacon of world peace.
"We are appealing to all of you for a peaceful world where mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence prevail," he said. "Where peace and security would be on top of our list so that we can see, once more, the smile on the faces of our children and that happiness will be restored and the sense of ambition would be there in our youth."
The presidents of France, Greece, Romania and Croatia attended the inauguration, as well as the king and queen of Spain and Queen Rania of Jordan.
The more than $200 million facility was built to house up to eight million books. It also contains several museums, five research institutes, a planetarium and a convention center able to accommodate 3,000 people.
Funding for the library came from Egypt and dozens of other countries, plus the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the U.N. Development Program.