Egypt Independent (Ola El-Saket)
Since the Institut d'Egypte burned down in December during clashes resulting from a sit-in by the cabinet being violently dispersed by police, people have been concerned about the national treasures of rare books damaged by the fire.
Few knew of the books hosted in the historic building, except for the famous “Description de l'Égypte” (Description of Egypt). Thankfully, several copies of the 20-volume book written by a team of French scientists who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte during his invasion of Egypt (1798 – 1801) lie safely in the country’s old libraries. Several more important, yet less known, books, however, have been tragically damaged. And at Dar al-Kotob (The National Library), where the books have been moved, conservators continue to work diligently.
“More than 10,000 books have been completely burnt,” says Dar al-Kotob Director Zain Abdul Hady. About 20,000 books were damaged by the fire and water, while another 20,000 arrived in good shape, he adds.
“This is one of the largest book restoration initiatives that have taken place in modern times,” says Abdel Hady, adding that it's even more difficult than the major flood of the Arno River in 1966 that damaged nearly one-third of the holdings at the National Central Library of Florence, which consisted of about 25,000 books including, most notably, its periodicals and Palatine and Magliabechi collections.