An Open Book on Turkish Book Rest – Dubai’s New Creek-Front Library
Dubai has never seized to inspire the world with its ambitious architecture and mega projects – seemingly drawn from ‘science fiction movies’, these attractions remain the enigma of hundreds of thousands of tourists the world over.
Constructed in the shape of an open book sitting on top of the Turkish traditional wooden book rest,and overlooking Dubai Creek in Al-jaddaf, a town located a few kilometers away from the city center, the 1 billion dirham Library is spread over 54,000 square meters with a capacity to host 1,000 visitors at a time:
In this Q & A, Alhassan Yusha – Diplomatic and Foreign Affairs Editor at AfricaNewsAnalysis elicits these interesting perspectives from Library Spokesperson, Dr. Mohammed Salem Obaid AlMazrooei, who is also a Board Member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation.
- There are a number of Libraries in Dubai. When did His highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum moot the idea of establishing this library, and what is the motive there of?
Founded by law no. 14 in 2016 during the national Year of Reading, the library is the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Supporting Dubai and UAE goals to develop a knowledge society.
Launched in 2014 our library’s primary goal is to stimulate a passion for knowledge among all those living in the United Arab Emirates, in particular among young people. We actively support and encourage reading, research, creativity and entrepreneurship by providing free access to an outstanding range of books and other knowledge resources, quality information services and our event calendar.
- There is a prominent ‘Hamza’ letter boldly printed in the upper part of the logo of the library. Is this a kind of ‘ a key meant to unlock something’ or a ‘Hamzat Wasl’ to somewhere? Can you shed light on the curative thought behind this Hamza?
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library’s logo carries symbolic value that originates from the Arabic language and the Holy Qur’an. The ‘hamza’ is the first letter in the modern Arabic alphabet, and the first letter revealed from the Holy Qur’an within the word “read” in Surah al-‘Alaq. This makes it a key pillar in Islam associated with stimulating reading and learning.
This logo design reflects our vision and strategy, which prioritizes comprehensive development through reading as a gateway to knowledge and enlightenment.
- The Library is architecturally designed like a rehl, a traditional wooden book rest so dear to Muslims. What is the driving force behind this curative thought?
Built in the shape of a ‘rehl’, the traditional wooden book rest used to hold the Quran, the library was designed to be one of the most unique public library buildings in the Middle East, and to constitute an architectural icon that combines originality and modernity.
The design reflects our vision and message to promote Arab and Islamic heritage by preserving, documenting, and spreading cultural heritage among future generations, as well as motivating authors and creatives to prioritize Arabic productions in literature, culture, and art.
- Why is it set up along a Creek – in fact at the end or beginning of it? Any philosophical thoughts to share?
The construction of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library overlooking the Dubai Creek in the historic Al Jaddaf area with its ancient markets dating back to the eighties, constitutes a link between the past and the present. This location is proof of Dubai’s history and its renewed cultural heritage, which was built with the help of various nationalities and diverse cultures that formed a unique civilized and cultural community.
- This library is said to be the biggest of its kind in the entire MENA region and the first sentence on your corporate profile states; ‘ We are building a light house of knowledge, culture, and creativity. That is quite ambitious a statement to make. How do you plan to do that? What is the road map?
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library houses Dubai’s most ambitious cultural initiative to-date, establishing a lighthouse of knowledge, culture, and creativity, through a comprehensive and sustainable roadmap. This roadmap consists of a wide range of resources, innovative programs and activities, partnerships with local and international institutions, and advanced technologies.
- Even though the library is an endowment funded by Shiekh Mohammed. Are there any income generation activities to augment the existing funding?
Library services like reading and administrative services are free of charge for visitors. However, there is a small fee for the annual membership for those who would like to benefit from additional services and facilities. Additionally, there are meeting rooms and study rooms, equipped according to the highest international standards with the latest technologies, an indoor theater and an amphitheater for winter events, festivals, forums and seminars. These can also be reserved for institutions and companies in exchange for a small fee.
- Do you have collaborative links with other prominent libraries in the west? Is there a plan to have one?
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is committed to establishing strategic partnerships with regional and international entities, by cooperating with international organizations and specialized institutions, learning from the best practices, and offering pioneering ideas and futuristic consultations through its services. This contributes to the development of innovative solutions to ensure positive and constructive impact on the cultural scene.
For instance, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library welcomed Prof. Ahmed Zayed, Director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) of Egypt and Dr. Rima Mismar, Executive Director of the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), to learn about the library’s leading experience and smart services, explore prospects of future cooperation in related fields, and exchange expertise in the public library sector.
- What role would the library play in the life of the youth in the UAE and the entire Gulf and MENA region?
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library aims to play a major role in the lives of youth in the UAE, the Gulf, and the MENA region, by providing a space for learning, research, intellectual growth, and entertainment, and offering educational programs and access to resources and opportunities for creative expression. This contributes to empowering the young generation and contributing to their personal and professional development.
The library is a hub for culture and creativity, and an incubator for talents. It contributes to stimulating passion for learning among youth, educating the community, and helping its members develop their own capabilities and expand their knowledge, through a wide range of activities and events.
- There is a serious initiative in the Gulf and the MENA regions to offer women many windows of opportunity to explore their potentials. How do you see the library’s contribution in this arena?
The library’s contribution lies in the empowerment of women, by providing equal opportunities to access knowledge, education, and cultural resources, in a supportive environment that offers female-centric programmes, events, and workshops. This comes in line with the National Strategy for Empowerment of Women. Today, the library is one of the leading institutions in empowering Emirati women and supporting their qualitative achievements in various cultural and knowledge fields. More than 59.42% of the library’s staff members are women.
- What is your long term strategic plan – in the next 20 years for example, how would you project the societal impacts of the library – both at the national and MENA levels?
In the long term, we are establishing a beacon of knowledge, culture, and creativity, to be a community hub of intellectual and cultural excellence, promote a thriving knowledge economy, social cohesion, and contribute to the general development and progress of the MENA region.
In two sentences, what message would you give our global readers?
Our message to global readers is that the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is a beacon of knowledge and cultural exchange. Our doors are open to everyone, based on our vision to encourage diversity, promote understanding, and inspire creativity. Our library is a testament to the transformative power of knowledge and the human pursuit of learning, and a gateway to new worlds of ideas and opportunity.
12- The library stores quite a huge number of collections in several languages – some which are European. How many books are available in Deutsch…?
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library houses knowledge treasures in more than 70 languages, including nearly 1,000 titles in Deutsch, in addition to nearly 217,423 titles in English, 2,335 titles in French, 503 titles in Spanish, and 163 titles in Italian.
13- Another significant feature is the “language garden” which offers “wise quotes” from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoom – in 171 languages. What is the objective of this feature?
The Languages Garden is a documentation of knowledge, sciences, and cultures, for the younger generations to learn about the wisdom of their ancestors who paved the way towards a better future. Documentation on walls, stones, and columns is a significant aspect of the survival of civilizations, and highlighting their most prominent achievements. The ancient Egyptian civilization is a good example of that.
14- One year on since the commissioning of the library, how has been the response in terms of number of visitors and users?
In the span of a year, MBRL welcomed over half a million visitors of different ages and nationalities, and added nearly 120,000 books in different fields.
The library also received more than 250 high-level delegations, headed by senior officials from the UAE and abroad, including delegations from Kuwait, Oman, Egypt, the Embassy of the Republic of Malta, and the consulates of Canada, China, and Malaysia. MBRL also welcomed Sultan Sharaf Al Din Idris Shah and his wife, and the wives of a number of ambassadors in the UAE, in addition to the Director of the Spanish El Escorial Library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), the New York Public Library, the Science Museum in London, among others. The library also received multiple school and university delegations to.
15- The UAE is proving to be a major global leader in carbon reduction – with lots of projects embedded with CO2 reduction elements. Is this Library environmentally friendly?
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library supports Dubai’s vision to become one of the most sustainable cities in the world. It is an environmentally friendly library that has adopted the highest standards of sustainability, as it gets 10 percent of its energy from solar panels installed on the roof of the building. The library also has natural lighting thanks to the ceiling windows in the building and is designed to reduce water consumption by 50%. Water is recycled from air conditioners to irrigate green spaces.
16- You operate a robotic laboratory and even have robot reading sessions in the Children’s library. What plans does the library have in boosting artificial intelligence in the UAE and the entire MENA region?
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide its visitors with a unique experience.
MBRL seeks to promote AI technology in the UAE and the MENA region, by supporting research and development programs, collaborating with universities, academic institutions, and technical companies to foster innovation, and expanding the use of advanced technologies. The library also strives to organize more conferences, events, and workshops in the field of AI technology, to promote dialogue and knowledge exchange, and prepare a generation of qualified cadres to work in the AI industry.
About Mohammed Bin Rashid Library:
Mohammed Bin Rashid Library was founded by Law No. (14) of 2016 Establishing the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library, as part of His Highness’s vision to develop a knowledge-based society in Dubai and across the UAE. The Library has become one of the most ambitious cultural and knowledge based initiatives in the Arab World.
MBRL aims to spark the passion for knowledge across all social groups in the UAE, especially the youth, in addition to the conservation and promotion of Arabic literature, culture and heritage by supporting and promoting reading, research, creativity, and entrepreneurship. This is reached through offering free access to a unique collection of books and other knowledge resources, as well as providing high-quality information services and launching leading cultural events.
The library includes nine sub-libraries: The General Library, Emirates Library, Young Adults Library, Children’s Library, Private Collections Library, Maps and Atlases Library, Media and Arts Library, Business Library, Periodicals Library, and Information Centre.
About The Languages Garden at Mohammed Bin Rashid Library:
Set against the backdrop of the Dubai Creek, the Languages Garden celebrates the wisdom of the library’s founder His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai.
Throughout the years, translation has been a means of civilized communication between peoples, a tool for transferring knowledge between nations, and a key factor in the progress of mankind. This is evident in The Languages Garden at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library.
In the garden, you will find 60 pillars displaying Sheikh Mohammed’s quotes on leadership, government, nation building, learning, and knowledge, translated into 171 modern and ancient world languages. Each pillar also shows the quotation in Arabic and English languages. You’ll find seating so that you can relax and enjoy the view.
Some of these languages are modern and others are ancient, including English, medieval English, as well as French, medieval French, Latin, Maithili, Spanish, Burmese, Bosnian, Korean, among others. These diverse languages reflect Dubai and the UAE’s cultural diversity.