Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi is heading up the response to recondition and develop three libraries in Beirut that were damaged by the August 4 blast. Sheikha Bodour leads the Advisory Committee of The Sharjah World Book Capital Office, which is implementing the project, although Sharjah’s UNESCO World Book Capital year officially ended in April.
According to Sheikha Bodour, the initiative, in partnership with Assabil, a non-governmental organisation that supports public libraries in Lebanon that are free and open to all,
aims to send a message of solidarity to the Lebanese community. Sheikha Bodour, Sharjah ruler’s daughter, added it symbolises the sympathy of millions of Arabs after the explosion caused widespread damage throughout the city. The renowned Emirati publisher also asked cultural and humanitarian organisations in the Arab region and around the globe to step up and allot funds to restore libraries, art galleries and cultural organisations that were damaged by the explosion.
“Restoring libraries and cultural centres are as important as supplying humanitarian aid,” Sheikha Bodour, who is also the Vice President of the International Publishers Association and the Emirates Publishers Association Founder, said in a statement.
“As we stand by people who lost their homes and businesses, we should not forget how vital the cultural role played by Beirut’s libraries, art galleries and institutions, has been — not only for Lebanon but the entire Arab region and the world. Their revival will ensure the preservation and continuity of Lebanon’s rich cultural legacy, and hopefully help the Lebanese people recover faster by bringing a sense of normalcy to the city.”
Extensive internal and external renovation work will be done on the Monot library, which has been severely damaged. Plus, new equipment will be supplied to the Bachoura and Geitawi facilities to upgrade them. The three libraries hardest hit by the devastating explosion are directly managed by Assabil, which also supports around 30 others in the country.
“We aspire to see a day when books and reading is accessible freely to everybody, especially the younger generations on whom falls the responsibility of not only rebuilding Beirut, but also continuing the march towards education and enlightenment," Ziad Alwan said while thanking Shaikha Bodour.
“Initiatives such as Shaikha Bodour’s serve to give us the hope and determination to realise our aspirations,” the President of Assabil, an organisation that supports “non-sectarian and open spaces for cultural exchange, information and reading,” added.