I would describe the El Gouna library as the unassuming beauty of El Gouna. What do I mean by that? The library is never in bright lights and is slightly dwarfed by the tower of The University of Berlin. But if you stop to take a look inside, you will see a beautiful building with thoughtful interior decoration and a warm atmosphere. But you will not see “El Gouna Library” displayed on the entrance wall, you will see “Bibliotheca Alexandrina”. That is simply because this library is a branch of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. And Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s vision is to spread knowledge and culture beyond a single city and also pay homage to the mother city in name. The architecture of the library is clearly Egyptian and blends in the modern skyline of El Gouna. But, if you look closely, you will see influences of Roman and Greek architecture as they have both had their hand in shaping Egypt’s rich and diverse history.
As you walk into the library you come across a large book on display within a glass casing. This is “A Secret Voyage” a 400-page signed, limited edition by Zahi Hawass accompanied by 166 breathtaking images by Sandro Vannini of the Theban Necropolis. Hawas is affectionatley known as the Indiana Jones of Egypt due to his lifelong commitment to Egyptian archaeology. His works have become celebrated throughout the world and here in The El Gouna Library lies one of only 25 copies of A Secret Voyage.
The library has two main tangible attractions. One is the small but endearing museum where you can see replicas of ancient Egyptian statues, paintings and artefacts. The other is the Culturama room. This is a moderately sized auditorium with nine interactive screens forming a semi-circle for 180°. Naturally, there are also nine projectors all synced to facilitate the immersive viewing experience. And lastly, to accompany the surround viewing, the auditorium is equipped with surround sound to give a sense of full immersion. These screens currently have the sole purpose of delivering a 45-minute length film documenting the history of Egypt. Starting at circa 3000BC it covers the Pharaonic, Christain, Islamic and Modern periods to give a concise and informative explanation on everything Egypt has gone through.
A library cannot be mentioned without mentioning the books. Although a humble collection, it is still pleasant to browse through the titles of your favourite author rather than yelling a command to Siri or typing a half-baked sentence in Google. The collection is small, but this only due to Bibliotheca Alexandria’s mission to stay up to date with current technologies. A repository of over 500,000 digital books is available and a high-end search function allows you to render results quickly and accurately. So, even with a small collection of books, there is no shortage of knowledge here. They hope to break some of the boundaries of popular technology, doing what few others have done before.
Included in their repertoire of digital resources are digitized historical writings. L’Art Arabe, compiled in 1877, is one of the most important books pertaining to Islamic monuments. Compiled by French Orientalist Prisse d’Avennes, it consists of four volumes made up of 222 plates and 338 pages. It has been available online since it’s UNESCO unveiling in 2007. The most impressive part is that it has been given Optical Character Recognition, or simply O.C.R., to make the whole piece text searchable.
Another impressive digital archive is the Description de l’Egypte. This is a catalogue of all known aspects of ancient and modern Egypt as well as its natural history. Modern Egypt in this context only reaches to 1829 as this text was written by Napoleon’s subjects on his expedition to Egypt. The Description de l’Egypte is actually a collection of works begun in 1809, spanned 20 years and included text, engravings and artwork by nearly 3000 contributors.
Since Egypt has had such a diverse religious history, the 3 Holy books are a necessity amongst the digital archives. The 3 Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism have made a great impact in this land and there are a number of rich antique manuscripts that one can search and cross-reference against each other.
If you wish to see the well produced and informative Culturama show, be sure to call the library on 065 3580023 to make a booking. Or use the internal extension 32589. The room accommodates up to 70 people and can be viewed in English, Arabic, Italian, French, Russian and German. The library also offers inside and outside reading area’s, a cafe and an internet room complete with PC’s and high-speed wifi.
Also, be sure to like their Facebook page: El Gouna Library / Bibliotheca Alexandrina for up to date information.