Who’s Afraid of Lebanon’s ‘al-Sa`eh Library’?

On Friday night, a historic bookshop in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli was burned, destroying thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of books and manuscripts. Today, salvage efforts have begun:

IMG-20140103-WA0018_490781_largeAlthough several news outlets were quoting an AFP report that “a pamphlet was discovered inside one of the books at the library that was insulting to Islam and the prophet Mohammad,” there was no apparent claim of responsibility and numerous denunciations.

According to NaharNet, this wasn’t the first time the place was targeted. The day before, “Bashir Hazzouri, an employee at the library, was shot and wounded on Thursday in the old souks of Tripoli.”

The library is run by the Greek Orthodox priest Father Ibrahim Srouj, and is apparently the largest in Tripoli and second-largest in Lebanon. According to library supporter Natheer Halawani, “The library has over 80,000 titles, not copies. The total amount of books exceeds this figure by far.”

According to Blog Baladi, Al Sa’eh Library was founded in 1970 by the Orthodox Youth movement and consisted of a single room. Now, it has more than 80,000 books, of which 400 are rare.

Numerous book-lovers expressed sorrow and dismay:



Much like with Cairo’s Institut d’Egypte, now the difficult work of preserving books and manuscripts begins.




Photos and commentary on A Separate State of Mind: Lebanon Loses 78000 Books To Terrorism: Tripoli’s “Al Sa’eh” Library Burned

On Naharnet: Tripoli Figures Condemn Torching Famed Library as Father Sarrouj ‘Forgives Attackers’ 

LBC: Rifi to LBCI: Tripoli will rebuild al-Saeh Library 

Photos and commentary from Natheer Halawani’s Dusty Window blog: The Tourist That Shall Never Leave 

Blog Baladi: 20 Pictures Of Al Sa’eh Library in Tripoli Before It Got Torched 

Daily Star: History Library Torched in N. Lebanon