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10  Best African Libraries to Include in Your Travel List

Written by Denise Chido

There are ten best African Libraries that you should add to your travel bucket list. There is a common misunderstanding about Africa which includes the belief that everyone lives in poverty.

Another is that one of the few activities available to tourists while on the continent is to go on safaris. In contrast, those activities are well worth the travel expenses. Africa also has other cultural attractions, like gorgeous African libraries.

Along with its unique culture, which includes 1,500 languages and accounts for 16% of the world’s population, it’s unsurprising that Africa offers libraries for tourists and book lovers from all over the world to explore.

Here are 10 of Africa’s most gorgeous libraries that you should add to your bucket list.

Library Of Alexandria

The Library of Alexandria is one of the most famous African libraries. This library, located on the shores of Alexandria, has enough space for nearly eight million books. Approximately one million books are currently in the collection, half of which was a gift from the National Library of France.

The library houses Africa’s most extensive collection of French-language literature and is the world’s sixth-largest. The remainder is primarily in Arabic and English. Additionally, the library features a conference centre, four museums, 19 art galleries, a manuscript restoration facility, and a multimedia collection.

Great Library of Alexandria. Photo/ MoMAA

Saint Catherine’s Monastery Library, Egypt

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, also in Egypt, was founded in 381 A.D. People call it the world’s oldest monastery. Its library dates back to the sixth century, making it one of its oldest continually operating libraries.

The library’s collection is astounding, with over 3,500 items in various languages. This makes it the second-largest of its sort after the Vatican. The Achtiname is one of the monastery’s most valuable possessions; it bears a promise from Muhammad himself to preserve the institution.

Kenya National Library

Kenya National Library is the first library on our list located in Sub-Saharan Africa. This stunning structure was restored and reopened in 2020.

The restored Kenya National Library’s welcome desk is ornamented with relief sculptures of drums, emphasizing the building’s central motif and the significance of drums in African culture.

The library’s unique features include a 300-seat children’s theatre. It has a 50-seat senior citizen section, and four auditoriums with 1,200 people. It’s one of the African Libraries that has a design that has room to exhibit the work of local authors and artists.

Additionally, the new building has a section for disabled patrons. You will find books and other materials available in various formats, including Braille, audiobooks, and large print.

Additionally, the Sanaa Centre, a 500-seat gallery, is open for local artists to exhibit their work.

Kenya National Library. Photo/ Contemporary Engineering

Balme Library, Ghana

The University of Ghana’s Balme Library is one of the best African Libraries for research. It houses about 100,000 volumes, 500 microfilms, various electronic titles, and rare manuscripts.

This includes Arabic books and a sizable African collection of books and primary source materials from countries throughout the continent.

Al-Qarawiyyin Library, Morroco

The world’s oldest library reopened in 2016 following major renovations. The library, created in 859 in Fez, Morocco, houses historical writings dating over 12 centuries.

The public will be able to explore a complex containing a reading room, book stacks, a conference room, a manuscript restoration laboratory, a rare book collection and new administrative offices, and a café. Can you imagine one of the most ancient African Libraries?

Misr University for Science and Technology Library, Egypt

This one is one of tnhe unique African Libraries—the pyramid-shaped skylights in this building transport student studying technology and science to ancient Egypt. But the designs also allow enough natural light without excessively raising the temperature.

The library’s collection, like its architecture, combines ancient Egyptian writings with science, cultural, and leisure readings. Additionally, the library has a museum with replicas of some of the country’s most famous monuments.

National Library of South Africa

The country’s first library was founded in 1818. If you are looking for African libraries with rare finds, this is it. The library has received several donations of rare books and manuscripts throughout the years.

In 1873 it was designated as a legal deposit library for the Cape Colony, getting copies of all works published there. There was an expansion of the library’s legal deposit requirement to span the entire country in 1916.

As a result, the library now has one of the most remarkable and comprehensive collections on the continent. In 1999, the library merged with the Pretoria State Library to become the National Library of South Africa.

National Library of South Africa. Photo/ Wikipedia

Port Elizabeth Main Library, South Africa

Port Elizabeth News Society established a public subscription library in 1845. Initially meeting in a small room, the organization quickly generated enough money to purchase the entire facility.

The government then rented the building as a courthouse for half a century before demolition and replacing it with the current facility. This facility opened in 1902. The structure was designated a historic monument in 1983.

Kenyatta University Library, Kenya

Late last year, there was the opening of this remarkably modern structure. It is six stories high, with each level serving a distinct purpose.

The basement houses all acquisition and binding, the first floor houses a student lounge and check-out desk. The second-floor houses the social science books, the third-floor houses the humanities titles, the fourth-floor houses the science and technology titles.

The fifth floor houses the special collections, and the top floor serves as a reading area for students and faculty.

Keren Public Library, State of Eritrea

In general, Keren and Eritrea have made significant efforts to improve educational services in their war-torn territories, mainly updated libraries.

This remarkable structure is just one of the many libraries that have benefited from the generosity of contributors worldwide who join with organizations such as Book Aid International to contribute money, computers, and books to those in most need.

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Denise Chido

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