The book traces the past, present and future of eight Mediterranean cities, which are: Alexandria, Beirut, Barcelona, Genoa,
Marseille, Naples, Tunis and Venice. Its shows the different aspects of their shared socio-cultural heritage, their present lives, as well as future development and urban projects.
Introduction By Ismail Serageldin
Librarian of Alexandria
Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina
The very name of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina evokes the legend of a glorious past, of a shared heritage not just between Greece and Egypt, but a shared heritage of the whole Mediterranean.
2300 years ago, Alexander the Great, Aristotle’s pupil, brought his dream of culture and conquest, uniting the world and launching a new era to the timeless land of Egypt. Alexander selected the site for a new capital: Alexandria. His successors in Egypt, the Ptolemies, built Alexandria and made it the intellectual capital of the Mediterranean.
The Library and the Mouseion created the great legacy of Alexandria where the renowned thinkers of the age, scientists, mathematicians, poets from diverse civilizations came to study and exchange ideas.
In the same spirit, sixteen hundred years later, the legacy has come to life again. The rebirth of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the New Library of Alexandria, has been dedicated to recapture the spirit of the original. It therefore aspires to be:
- The World’s window on Egypt;
- Egypt ’s window on the world,
- A leading institution of the digital age; and, above all;
- A center for learning, tolerance, dialogue and understanding.
In order to accomplish this mission, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has a special focus on the Mediterranean. It is no wonder that the roof of the Library has been designed with windows in the form of eyes overlooking the Mediterranean, symbolizing the attachment we have for the "Mare Nostrum".
The is no doubt that our "Blue Sea" has been, all through history, a place of controversy with ruptures and alliances, tolerance and xenophobia, war and peace. All its great civilizations: Egyptian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Carthaginian, Phoenician and Islamic had to find ways to cohabite in the Mediterranean, thus contributing to its glory. Diversity came in the variety of its ethnicities, faiths and cultures and sometimes produced harmony, sometimes ruptures.
The flow of knowledge, scientific ideas and technologies as well as commercial trade contributed enormously to the cultural enrichment of all concerned. The Mediterranean was always that force, that at times united, at others separated its societies.
Today, the old challenges have evolved and new ones have emerged: These include the north/south divide in its different aspects of wealth and knowledge, the problem of the conservation of the environment and the issues of migrations. These challenges call for greater integration, tolerance and acceptance of the "other", as we all seek to forge together new solutions for these new challenges.
The New Library of Alexandria was founded in the belief that dialogue and cultural interaction will help us to bridge our differences and create a new Mediterranean that unites us in both freedom and prosperity.