25 February 2007

Al Husseini and the Dream of a Public Library

Abdo Murtadda Al Husseini died yesterday in his hometown Baalbeck.
He was the owner of, as it was reported, the largest private library in the Middle East. One newspaper put the number of books at about a million. But that’s not the point.

He died yesterday without achieving his lifetime dream of converting his library into a public library.
He called upon the local authorities to undertake this project, since he could not afford the cost, but his calls fell on deaf ears. Our leaders and politicians had and still have more pressing and more important matters at hand.

A group of his friends formed a club in his honor (while he was alive) to help him preserve the collection but they couldn’t do more.

Abdo started collecting books when he was a boy. He started by selling fruit seeds and used his earnings to buy prints. Although he had to sell some of his collectables, later on, to make ends meet.

So then, was he a man with a purpose, a book addict or a bookworm?

Is there or will there ever be a public library in Baalbeck, or in any other city in Lebanon?
Does anyone know the location of Beirut’s public library?
Whatever happened to the project of converting the law school building into one?


Manar said...

apparently, there is one in or around baakline. i haven't been inside though, so i can't validate what it holds.

Anonymous said...

first, may he rest in peace. this man (although i had never heard of him before this post) must have been a treasure. for any human being to take on this task is a huge undertaking. iam an avid that "if you build it, they will come". the library would have benefited the children at the very least, and most important, and encourage the new generation to take on reading rather than other useless hobbies. i hope somebody has the ability as well as the monetary funds to resurect his "library".

Ms Levantine said...

Being a book addict, I will mourn the passing of Mr. Husseini although I also had never heard of him.

If I remember correctly, in the 90's Fares Zoghbi was trying to give away his collection to no avail. I think that it took an interest in it from the Syrians for the USJ to make a move.

Manar, there is an NGO called Assabil (www.assabil.com) that opens public libraries. I visited the ones in Beirut and in Hermel, and I can attest that they do an excellent job.


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