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Egypt’s famed library reopens

Alexandria, Oct. 17 (Reuters): One of the world’s first and most celebrated centres of learning, the Alexandria Library, was reopened yesterday after a 1,600-year hiatus and hailed as a message of peace between civilisations.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was joined by the presidents of France, Italy and Greece and queens of Spain and Jordan at a glittering ceremony to inaugurate the Bibliotheca Alexandrina that had been a beacon of knowledge for seven centuries in the ancient world until its demise in 415 A.D. ”The revival of the library will play a central role in the meeting of cultures and societies,” Mubarak told the gathering, which also included authors and pop stars.

“Our region has always been suffering from bloodshed and conflicts. Now it is time to put this to an end,” he said in the vast hall of the state-of-the-art building that faces out to the Mediterranean sea.

Since the US“war on terror” was unleashed after the September 11 attacks last year, political elites in Arab and Muslim countries have feared that predictions of a “clash of civilisations” between East and West were coming true. An official opening planned earlier this year for the library, which has been 20 years in the planning and construction at a cost of more than $200 million, was delayed because of tension over Israel’s attempts to crush a Palestinian uprising.

“Let it provide solace... Let it serve as inspiration for the flowering that is yet to come,” Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka said.

The 11-storey building — on the spot where scholars believe the ancient library stood before it was destroyed — emerges from the ground as a giant disc tilting 20 degrees north towards the sea.

“The Egyptians are builders of civilization at a time when others are building arsenals of rockets and spending millions of dollars on them,” one of the library's architects Mamdouh Hamza said.

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