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Egypt reopens ancient library in Sinai

Bettina Baumann ad; with dpa, swr
December 18, 2017

After three years of renovations, Egypt has reopened the doors to one of the world's oldest libraries in Saint Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. The library has a gigantic collection of early Christian texts.

Katharinenkloster Sinai Halbinsel Ägypten
Image: Manuela Manay/Fotolia

The ancient library of the Greek-Orthodox Saint Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula held its reopening ceremony on Saturday.

Read more: Cairo's Museum of Islamic Art reopened

The 6th-century building, officially called Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai, houses a collection of more than 3,000 manuscripts, most of them written in Greek. But also handwritten documents in Arabic, ancient Syriac, Georgian, Hebrew, Armenian and Slavonic are kept there. Some of the manuscripts are among Christianity's oldest documents, for example, parts of a handwritten Bible dating to the 4th century.

According to the director general of Archaeological Studies in Sinai, Abdel-Rahim Rihan, the library is only topped by the Vatican's library in terms of importance for early Christian documents.

Ägypten Katharinenkloster auf dem Sinai
Visitors can once again admire one of the world's oldest icons in the apse of the basilicaImage: picture-alliance/AP/S. Magdy

Read more: How Jews, Christians and Muslims exchanged knowledge for a millennium

Unstable situation

The renovation of an early Christian mosaic in the monastery's basilica also was completed. "Today's reopening is a message of security and peace to the entire world," said Egypt's Minister of Antiquities Chaled al-Anani.

Saint Catherine's Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of the most important tourist destination in Egypt. The government is trying to strengthen the tourism industry that was damaged by political unrest in relation to the Arab Spring in 2011 and by several terrorist attacks.

In April, a deadly attack occurred in the vicinity of the monastery. The so-called "Islamic State" claimed responsibility, .

Our picture gallery shows some of the world's most beautiful libraries.