Sharjah's House of Wisdom has officially opened.
On Wednesday, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the library, marking the latest chapter in the emirate's influential role in spreading culture in the region.
The venue will be available to the public from Thursday, December 10, and open from 10am to 8pm, daily. But the lending of books will start at a later date.
The House of Wisdom, on Al Khawaneej Street and near Etihad Mall, has a collection of more than 300,000 books and the centre is spread across 1.2 hectares.
The building was designed by renowned British architectural firm Foster + Partners to commemorate Sharjah being named as the Unesco World Book Capital in 2019.
Where literature and technology meet
Once inside, book lovers will enter not so much a library, but a vibrant and multifaceted space home to state-of-the-art print and groundbreaking literature from the region and beyond.
Developed by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) the library is set on an elevated platform, spans 12,000 square metres and has up to 15 different lobbies and halls spread across two floors.
The main space is The Monumental Library, which will store up to 305,000 books, two thirds of which are in digital form and 11,000 are in various languages.
The children's library, The Little Reader, carries more than 5,000 titles for children and youths. A dedicated space for women is also on offer with a meeting spot called the Ladies Diwan, which also includes a library for the very young – aged 3 to 10.
Meanwhile, the Book Espresso Machine section allows visitors to print and bind books upon demand.
More book technology is found in Al Jazari Laboratory (also known as the Fabrication Lab) named after 12th century Mesopotamian inventor Badi Al Zaman Al Jazari.
On his visit, Sheikh Dr Al Qasimi examined the pavilion's features, which include cutting-edge 3D printers, lasers and vinyl cutting machines.
Dedicated arts and exhibition space
The House of Wisdom also offers numerous arts spaces with two current exhibitions by Iraqi-born New York artist Wafaa Bilal. The first is 168:01, which mourns the loss of 70,000 books in a 2013 fire in the University of Baghdad.
The second, The Ashes Series, is a display of press photographs capturing some of the destruction in Iraq caused by two decades worth of conflict.
In addition to lush and landscaped gardens, comprising more than 300 trees of 12 different species, the House of Wisdom also has dedicated auditorium to hold cultural events such as festivals and seminars.
Behold, The Scroll
Outside the area lies House of Wisdom’s key architectural landmark.
Dubbed The Scroll and designed by British sculptor Gerry Judah, it is a spiralling and modern sculpture inspired by Arabic scrolls.
It stands at about 36 metres tall and weighs 72 tonnes, and visitors can marvel at the structure as they walk around and underneath it.
Upon looking up, they will be met by rays of light gaping through steel folds, which will in turn form shifting puddles of light on the ground.
"The origin of the book is the scroll, it's where it all started," Judah said. "I thought the design also nodded to Arabian calligraphy."
It is that rich mixture of the region’s past and future that makes The House of Wisdom a library for the ages.
That universal message is also brought home by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association, on her official Instagram account.
“The House of Wisdom is finally open,” she said. “We hope this place of enlightenment will be a beacon of light and knowledge for generations to come."
For more information, call the House of Wisdom on 971 6 594 0000