Dubai: The newly inaugurated Mohammed bin Rashid Library will open to the public on Thursday. Designed in the shape of an open book on a rahle (Arabic lectern), the seven-storey knowledge haven located on the banks of Dubai Creek in Al Jaddaf is the latest cultural beacon - and biggest library - in the region.
Gulf News joined a media tour on Tuesday, and likening the library to an ‘unputdownable’ thrilling novel that captures the imagination of a reader, we can say that every nook and cranny of the modern library is a page-turner.
MBR Library is currently housing over 1 million printed and digital books in Arabic and foreign languages, with a target of increasing the collection to around 3 million books. There are also over 6 million dissertations; around 73,000 music scores, 75,000 videos; around 13,000 articles, and more than 5,000 historical print and digital journals within an archive covering at least 325 years. There are also about 35,000 print and digital newspapers from around the world, and nearly 500 rare collectibles.
Built at a cost of Dh1 billion, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is comprised of nine libraries – General Library, Emirates Library, Young Adults Library, Children’s Library, Private Collections Library, Maps and Atlases, Media and Arts, Business, and Periodicals.
Each section has a character spanning across cultures and generations that weave the story of the library into a wonderful creation.
When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, opened the library on Monday, he said: “Our goal is to illuminate the human mind. The economy needs knowledge ... politics needs wisdom ... nations need to learn ... and all of that can be found in books. Through this library, we have brought together millions of books to develop our path, consolidate our identity, culture and roots ... and create our future.”
It is this same future-looking vision that a visitor to the MBR Library will first observe. Upon entering its halls, one is invited to take a step into augmented reality (AR) displayed on a giant LED screen, strategically placed in between rows of hundreds of books on left and right side.
As the camera focuses on the visitor, he/she will be joined on the LED screen by pioneering Emirati astronauts Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyad. Then a remake of the successful launching of UAE’s Hope Probe will be shown as a symbolic gesture that entering MBR Library is like being propelled into an infinite knowledge exploration.
The first stop during the media tour was the Book Auto Storage, located in the basement. This is where the bulk of the books are stored and where a ‘robot librarian’ will sort out and pick the book a visitor can borrow.
The visitor can borrow a book through the MBR Library app or by filling up the request in one of the kiosks at the library. The request will then be forwarded to the (human) technician at the basement and the ‘robot librarian’ (which is actually a trolley) will locate the book and deliver it in the information centre for the borrower to pick up. The entire process – from placing the request to delivery and receiving the book – will take under 10 minutes.
According to Jamal Al Shehhi, board member at MBR Library, who served as the guide during the media tour, Mohammed bin Rashid Library is the “only library in the region with a robot delivery system”. He added the library keeps at minimum of three copies of each book title.
Second stop was the Digitising Laboratory, also located in the basement, where technicians carefully work on scanning every page of old manuscripts and converting them into digital format.
A large and heavy book published in 1911 by French historian, librarian, author and collector Henri-Rene d’Allemagne detailing his three months of travel in Persia was being scanned when Gulf News visited the place on Tuesday.
Treasures of the library
From the basement, we went straight to the seventh floor, the topmost level of the library. As a repository of knowledge, Mohammed bin Rashid Library is a indeed compendium of the history of humankind – from the dawn of civilisation to their discoveries, social conditions, economic and political history, and mankind’s future.
At the section called Treasure of the Library can be found the world’s finest literary works throughout the centuries – from rare religious manuscripts, calligraphy tools, to medical journals, heavily-decorated atlases to the first editions written by mankind’s literary masters.
Prominently displayed are some of the most defining artistic achievements of Islamic civilisation – from its formative stages that also include the development of Arabic scripts used to transcribe the Holy Quran. Encased in glasses are parchments of the Quran produced during the first three centuries of the Islamic era.
There were also calligraphy tools and inkwells that show a unique and immersive window into the rich and multi-layered dimensions of Islamic arts and culture.
Al Shehhi singled out a set of opulently decorated calligraphy tool and inkwells that is worth around Dh5 million. He added it took them at least four years to collect the items from various sources, including winning bids at several auctions abroad.
Works of Arabic philosophers as well as pages from the Ramayana, the Book of Kins by Firdawsi, the Diwan of Mutannabi, The Tale of Genji were also prominently displayed.
A 1491 first fully illustrated edition of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy as well William Shakespeare’s comedies, histories and tragedies published in 1632 were also on display. There is also a 1580 (first edition) essay by French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne, a 1780 copy of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, a 1859 philosophical essay title On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, and in terms of contemporary literature - translations of quotations from Mao Zedong published in 1963.
Al Shehhi said there are around 37,000 titles both in Arabic and English that are housed in the Emirates Library section. The spacious section of the library on the sixth floor has books, manuscripts, journals, etc., that are about the UAE. Novels written by Emiratis can also be found here. Across the Emirates Library is the section dedicated for Business.
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On the fifth floor is the Special Collections Library, with rare items. Al Shehhi said a special permit is required for visitors to access this area which the media were not able to explore due to time constraints.
Below the Special Collections Library, on the fourth floor are the conference rooms. There are 12 of them which can be rented for special functions and activities. Study rooms, which are rent-free, and employee offices are located on the second and third floors respectively.
Media, arts, maps and young adult
The Media and Arts Library, Maps and Atlases, as well as the Young Adult library are all located on the first floor.
There are over 24,000 titles in the Media and Arts section while rare maps and atlases can be found in the adjacent room. Among the rare items are the first edition of Blaeu’s Atlas Maior, and a first edition of Napoleon’s Description de l’Égypte, an 18th century encyclopedic register of Egyptian history and archaeology.
The Young Adult Library, meanwhile, contains novels and literature as well as comic books for young readers aged between 12-17.
General and children’s library
There are over 100,000 books that can be found in the General Library – with 29,000 titles on topics ranging from history to technology, health and science education, written in Arabic, English and other languages.
For young readers, the Children Library is a big attraction with its colourful flooring as well as tepee-inspired and flower-themed tables. There are also cubby holes and slides. A robot librarian is also on hand to assist and satisfy the queries of the young visitors.
The Children Library is very inclusive – there are books in Braille as well as a special sensory pod to accommodate visitors in the autism spectrum or anyone who just wants to cancel out external sensory activities.
“Mohammed bin Rashid Library is one of the best equipped libraries for people of determination in terms of services and features. The Library empowers the visually impaired with a Braille service, as part of the library’s strategy to integrate all creative individuals into society. In addition, The Library has a dedicated area providing a comforting and quiet space for people of determination and autistic individuals,” a library staff said.
Also at the library is the Languages Garden that celebrates the wisdom of Sheikh Mohammed across 60 pillars that display dozens of his quotes on leadership, government, nation building, learning, and knowledge, translated into various languages.
Aside from using artificial intelligence and advanced library technologies, MBR Library is also designed to increase periods of self-shading as much as possible to help reduce thermal retention from the sun’s rays.
The Library acquires 10 per cent of its energy needs from solar panels installed on the roof of the building. The exterior was designed to insulate the interior, reduce heat retention, and help regulate the building’s interior environment.
The Library also receives natural, lighting thanks to the building’s roof windows. It can also reduce garden irrigation consumption by 50 per cent, as well as reuse water gathered from air conditioning units to water green areas.
How to get there
MBR Library is located on the banks of Dubai Creek in Al Jaddaf. The closest Metro station, which is just around 200m away, is the Al Jaddaf station on the Green Line.
Become a member
Membership to MBR Library can be done by registering on its website and mobile app. A membership fee will be announced soon.
Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm
• June 13, 2022 – His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, inaugurated Mohammed Bin Rashid Library
• June 16, 2022 – official opening of the library to the public
• Dh 1 billion – is the library’s total cost
• Rehal – the library is built in the shape of an Arabic lectern that is mostly used to hold the Holy Quran.
• 581,903 sqft. (over 54,000 sqm.) – Library’s total built area
• Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is launched as part of the Spreading Education & Knowledge section within Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives.
• 1,000 – the number of visitors the library can accommodate simultaneously.
• Over 1.1 million printed and digital books in Arabic and foreign languages.
• More than 6 million dissertations.
• About 73,000 musical scores.
• 75,000 videos.
• About 13,000 articles.
• Around 500 rare acquisitions.
• Over 5,000 printed and digital historical periodicals, archiving 325 years of history.
• About 35,000 printed and digital journals from all over the world.
Young Adults Library
Private Collections Library
Maps and Atlases Library
Media and Arts