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Egyptian National Library and Archives

Egyptian National Library and Archives
دار الكتب والوثائق القومية
National Library Egypt.jpg
TypePublic, National library and National archives.
Established1870 (148 years ago) (1870)

The Egyptian National Library and Archives (Arabic: دار الكتب والوثائق القومية‎; "Dar el-Kotob") are located in Cairo and is the largest library in Egypt. The second largest libraries in Egypt are Al-Azhar University and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (New Library of Alexandria). The Egyptian National Library and Archives are a non-profit government organization.[1]

The National Library houses several million volumes on a wide range of topics.[1] It is one of the largest in the world with thousands of ancient collections. It contains a vast variety of Arabic-language and other Eastern manuscripts, the oldest in the world.[1] The main library is a seven-story building in Ramlet Boulaq, a district of Cairo. The Egyptian National Archives are contained in an annex beside the building.

The National Archives, located in an annex beside the library, houses a vast and diverse collection. The holdings are particularly significant to those who work on Egyptian social and political history, although it is open to the public.


Cairo, the Khedival Library

Khedive Isma'il Pasha, also known as Ismail the Magificent[2], was devoted to cultural development and modernization of Egypt during his rule[3]. He introduced the project of the National Library of Egypt (formerly, Kotub Khana of Egypt) in March 23, 1870. Ali Pasha Mubarak, the Minister of Education of Egypt during that time, was appointed the job of collecting materials to place in the library by Ismail[3]. The materials were obtained from Sultans, Princes, and scholars and were taken from Mosques, shrines, and schools to form the library's holdings. In Egypt, a library is called a bookhouse. Ali Pasha Mubarak placed many different languages within the collection, a representation of the diverse sources of Egyptian culture and knowledge[3].

The library, which was originally housed in Darb al-Gamamiz[4], was built to look like the National Library of Paris. Their aim was to emulate the great library's in Europe at the time. After a mandate passed in 1886 that required all new books and publications to be deposited within the library’s holdings, it outgrew its repository[3]. A new building was erected for the library in 1904 in Bab al-Khalq and shared its space with the Museum of Islamic Art[5]. The library was moved to its current and much larger location in 1971, where it overlooks the Nile on the Corniche in Ramle Boulak. The current location is several buildings comprising the library, which has modern features for the public and researchers, book storage, a scientific center, and the administrative offices[6].


Collections include a wide variety of manuscripts of the Qur'an, written on paper and parchment. Some of which date back to early Kufic script. Others are written by celebrated calligraphers. Of Egyptian Islamic materials, there is perhaps the outstanding collection of illuminated manuscripts of the Qur'an in the Mamluk text-hand, and in Trilinear and Rayhani hands. There are also collections of Arabic papyri from different sites in Egypt, some dating to the 7th century AD or earlier. The library is a mine of information on early Islamic Egypt's social and cultural life. Ancient Persian and Ottoman documents are also part of the collection.

Outside the Egyptian National Library and Archives

The library remains Egypt's largest resource of manuscripts and documents that include more than 57,000 of the most valuable manuscripts in the world. The manuscript collection covers a vast number of subjects, fully documented, dated, and compiled. It also houses a rare number of Arabic papyri. These are related to marriage, rent, and exchange contracts, as well as records, accounts of taxes, distribution of inheritance, etc. The oldest papyrus group dates back to the year AH 87 (AD 705); only 444 papyri from this collection were published.

The Library also has a large collection of medieval Arabic coins from as early as AD 696, which were published by Stanley Lane-Poole, Bernhardt Moritz and recently by Norman D. Nicol, Jere L. Bacharach and Rifa'at al-Nabarawy in 1982. These collections are of high archeological value[6].

Collections formed by Ahmed Taymour Pasha, Ahmed Zaki Pasha, Ahmed Tal'aat Bey and Mustafa Fadel all came to the National Library at the end of the 19th century.

2014 Car Bombing

Damaged sustained after the 2014 car bombing.

On Friday, January 24, 2014, a car bomb meant to destroy the Police Headquarters across the street from the National Library and Archives did quite a bit of damage to the library's building and collections. National Library and Archive head Abdul Nasser Hassan estimated that the losses would be around $2.81 million in repairs[7]. Lighting and ventilation systems were destroyed, along with the Islamic architectural facade, which crumbled to the ground. Showcases and displays containing irreplaceable ancient manuscripts and papyri were damaged, along with all the furniture in the building. The conservation staff at the National Library and Archive's were able to save the documents on display, although they did sustain some damage[8].


  • Moritz, Bernhardt: "Additions à la collection numismatique de la Bibliothèque Khédiviale". In: Bulletin de l'Institut Egyptien; 4e sér. 4 (1903), pp. 199–204.
  • Nicol, Norman D.; el-Nabarawy, R. & Bacharach, J. L.: Catalog of the Islamic Coins, Glass Weights, Dies and Medals in the Egyptian National Library, Cairo. Malibu, California 1983.

See also


  • Marcel Lajeunesse, ed. (2008). "Égypte". Les Bibliothèques nationales de la francophonie (PDF) (in French) (3rd ed.). Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. OCLC 401164333. Free to read
  • "Egypt", World Report 2010, The Hague: International Federation of Library Associations, OCLC 225182140, Freedom of access to information (Includes information about the national library)

External links

  1. ^ a b c "The National Library and Archives". Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  2. ^ Madmonarchist (2013-08-21). "The Mad Monarchist: Monarch Profile: Ismail the Magnificent, Khedive of Egypt". The Mad Monarchist. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  3. ^ a b c d "The National Library of Egypt Dar al-Kotub at Bab -SIS". Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  4. ^ "Dar al-Kutub al-Qawmiya (al-Miṣriya) (Egyptian National Library) | Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation". Al-Furqan. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  5. ^ "Dar al-Kutub Manuscript Collections, Cairo | Dissertation Reviews". Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  6. ^ a b "دار الكتب والوثائق القومية". Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  7. ^ "Bomb damages Egypt's National Library and Archives - Islamic - Heritage - Ahram Online". Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  8. ^ "Preserving treasures in Cairo's National Library and Archives". Anita Chowdry. 2014-01-27. Retrieved 2018-11-18.