The Library of Alexandria mural is an incubator for the meeting of civilizations.
The mural of the Library of Alexandria made of grey granite with symbols and inscriptions from all the alphabets of the world speaks the message of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. One of the most prominent signs gives the place a special character through many inscriptions and letters of the alphabet as artistic elements symbolizing science and knowledge. These engraved inscriptions do not tell any stories or represent historical events. Rather, they are just letters symbolizing the world’s cultures throughout the different historical eras.
The idea of erecting this mural came to the artist’s mind, Jorn Sanz, from the early stages of the Alexandria Library project. Companies competed to develop the appropriate architectural design for it. Because the library is designed so that sunlight penetrates only from the roof, it results in a solid, windowless exterior wall, which allowed the establishment of an independent artwork symbolizing the library’s activities. In addition, the various geological formations, such as those in the upper Nile River, added their touches to the mural.
When laying the first building blocks for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in 1995, Sans and her associates from the Snohita Company began an arduous search for the best quarries in Egypt to obtain foreign stones. The trend was towards the deserts in Upper Egypt, which revealed the presence of two types of grey granite, either Schulman or Enhanced, with different capabilities to complete the project. Then the Egyptian companies were invited to attend a workshop in Norway for training in cutting and engraving works to help the Egyptian workers to submit the appropriate bids. At the same time, developed models of Norwegian granite were presented, and engraving techniques were determined.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina mural has been affected by geological formations such as those on the banks of the Nile River. On the other hand, the rocks of different sizes represent historical periods and eras from which the factors of erosion and erosion have been removed.
The size of most of the granite slabs used in the mural is about 2 x 1 meter, while the thickness ranges between 15 to 20 cm. These stones were cut by hand, giving them a natural rough feel that increased their strength and hardness. It also provided the opportunity to engrave many letters written electronically by an electronic diamond cutter, to mark the outer frame of the symbols in preparation for their hand engraving.
Although the Egyptian workers who carried out the engraving work were distinguished by their craftsmanship and had long experience in this field, they were assigned a difficult task with the use of new and unfamiliar equipment for them, so foreign expertise was used to train them to use these modern techniques (Program NORAD developed the training.
After two years of continuous hard work, 6000 panels, weighing about 2,400 tons, were engraved to be installed on the mural. The final form of the mural truly embodies the pleasure of reading. It represents an artistic celebration of the smallest elements in the library in light of the system of signs and symbols belonging to the past, present and future.
Library of Alexandria mural symbols and alphabets
The mural covers an area of 6000 square meters of granite, containing thousands of letters and symbols from all the alphabets used by men all over the world over time and space. Some are still in use today, while others have become part of the distant past, which made assembling and studying those alphabets a tedious and tedious matter. Mrs Sanz began the journey of research and collection of the world’s alphabets with a visit to the British Museum, which includes among its holdings the “Rosetta Stone”. But she did not find the great help she was expecting. She visited a small public library near her home in Oslo – the Oslo City Library – which supplies books to immigrants living in this city in their native languages. Many immigrants from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent lived in this region, a region of the world in which strange writings are used. This provided Jorn Sanz with many different sources and references for those languages. She began her work in studying and analyzing these languages and putting the shapes that will be implemented on the mural of the Library of Alexandria to become an exhibition of the various alphabets and global scripts.
Many of the inscriptions on the mural are distinguished by their common origins. For example, Roman, Arabic, Mongolian, Sanskrit, and Tamil letters have a common origin.
One of the most prominent inscribed alphabets
Alphabets belonging to the Semitic language
(Menoid – Aramaic – Ugaritic – Phoenician – Hebrew – Arabic – South Arab (Saba’a) – Ethiopian – Ge’ez).
Alphabets belonging to the ancient Egyptian language
(Hieroglyphic – Demotic – Hieratic – Coptic).
Alphabets belonging to the Berber languages and dialects
(Kabilia – Tamazight – Darawi – Soussi – Tachilhet – Zinaga – Zenati – Tarji…….).
Alphabets belonging to the Cushitic languages
(Beja – Dongoli – Saho – Oromo – Somali – Kambata).
Alphabets belonging to the Chadic languages and dialects
(Hausa – Biomandara – Bidya – Mobi – Mukolo – Masa..).
In addition to the alphabets derived from other languages or dialects, such as:
The Arabic language is derived from many scripts, including (Persian – Ottoman Turkish – Urdu…).
As well as the Semitic fonts, many fonts were derived from them, including: (Saba’a – Himyarite).
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina mural includes many different alphabets and fonts, including:
(Canaanite – Phoenician – Nagari – Bengali – Pahlavi – Gujarani – Sinhala – Manchu – Brahmi – Gurmukhi – Oriya – Tamil – Malayalam – Telugu – Kannada – Burmese – Cambodian Khmer – Thai – Maskari – Balinese – Batak – Luntara – Bujni – Tagalog Gothic – Coptic – Georgian – Norse – Ay Randi – Enshi – Pashto – Sindhi).
Many European languages and their derivatives
(English – French – German – Spanish – Italian – Portuguese – Dutch…).
Is it possible for a visitor to the Library of Alexandria to feel strange, after all, as he stands in front of its library, facing its mural, regardless of his nationality, and whatever his language?