His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani officially inaugurated the Qatar National Library (QNL) on Monday at Qatar Foundation's (QF) Education City at a grand ceremony and placed the one-millionth book on the shelves.

The event, held in the imposing QNL building, was attended by His Highness the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, QF chairperson Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, and HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani.

Oman's Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al-Said, Turkey's Assistant Prime Minister Bakir Buzdag, Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah's envoy and Minister of Emiri Diwan Affairs Sheikh Ali Jarrah al-Sabah and Princess Lalla Hasna, representative of King Mohamed VI of Morocco, were present.

His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani receiving the one millionth book of Qatar National Library at the grand opening ceremony of the library on Monday.

Turkey's former president Abdullah Gul, France's former president Nicolas Sarkozy, Kosovo's former president Atifa Yahya Agha, and Italy's former prime minister Matteo Renzi also were present on the occasion.The ceremony was attended by a number of other dignitaries, sheikhs, ministers, heads of diplomatic missions in Qatar and guests.

His Highness the Emir commemorated the event by signing the official inauguration certificate, which will be mounted on a plaque, and by placing on the shelves QNL's one-millionth book, a rare 843-year-old manuscript copy of Sahih al-Bukhari. The first book on the shelves of QNL was placed by Her Highness Sheikha Moza in December 2016.

Speaking on the occasion, Her Highness Sheikha Moza said: "The inauguration of Qatar National Library invokes a great sense of historical pride and belonging to the Arab world, which pioneered writing, transcription, and libraries in Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago. The idea of the National Library was inspired by this glorious history, in hopes of restoring an Arab renaissance that we do not want to lose. The library was established to be a treasury of written history and a medium for the transfer of knowledge between different cultures.”

His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani touring the Qatar National Library after he formally opened it on Monday at a grand ceremony in Education City. PICTURE: AR Al-Baker/HHOPL

“Essentially, it will be an institution of reference for Arabic and Islamic heritage and a platform for spreading contemporary intellectual and literary thought. Designed in form and content to be three-dimensional: a national library, a public library, and a research library in one. As an advanced digital library, it will allow users immediate access to accurate information. It will provide new generations with the necessary, intellectual tools to read and interpret history correctly,” added Sheikha Moza.

Dr Sohair Wastawy, executive director, QNL, said: “Qatar National Library seeks to be a centre of learning not only in Qatar but also internationally. This grand opening, which welcomed more than 700 visitors from Qatar and around the world, demonstrates the continued global importance of libraries in everyday life.”

After a special presentation marking the inaugural moment, poet Tamim al-Barghouti gave a speech titled ‘It is still possible’, followed by a film showing QNL’s journey and a speech by the library’s lead architect, Rem Koolhaas, who spoke about the architecture of cultural institutions. The event also showed a video message featuring numerous library directors from around the world congratulating QNL on its opening.

Roly Keating, CEO of the British Library, gave a speech on the importance of libraries; Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, delivered a speech titled ‘Where Bits and Atoms Meet’; and an interactive map showed the 52 countries from which guests were visiting.

The event concluded with a performance of the musical piece ‘Sounds of the Library’, by Qatari composer Dana Alfardan.

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