New director for venerable bibliotheca

12-05-2017 09:09 AM

Youssef Sidhom


Problems on hold


It made me happy last week to learn that President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi approved the appointment of Mustafa al-Fiqi as new Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), the Library of Alexandria, upon recommendation of the BA’s Board of Trustees. Dr Fiqi will replace Ismail Serageldin who was in charge of the library since its foundation in 2002. Dr Fiqi’s scholarly and intellectual capacity make him the perfect man to continue developing the BA into the beacon of knowledge that the ancient Library of Alexandria was when established some 2500 years ago by Alexander the Great’s successor in Egypt, Ptolomey I.

As I see it, Dr Fiqi’s appointment to the head post at the BA starkly contrasts with his rumoured nomination in 2011 to the post of Secretary-General of the Arab League. Had he made it to that post, he would have been to be pitied since, on account of Arab leaders’ lack of political will to achieve any united stance, the position carried minimal chances of success. I had elaborated on that issue in an editorial titled “Arab League: The far from possible unity?” on 14 August 2016 []

Today, however, Dr Fiqi stands to preside over the BA which, in its young age of 15 years and under the leadership of Dr Serageldin, was able to regain the magnificent reputation the ancient library enjoyed of civilizational, intellectual, scholarly and enlightenment splendour. So Dr Fiqi has in his hands a precious legacy; this legacy he is expected to develop, complement and augment. What a significant, rich, enjoyable, yet serious and arduous task!

In a recent interview by the State-owned daily ++al-Ahram++, Dr Serageldin listed the BA’s achievements in its short life:

  • The BA today is among the 100 most important libraries in the world; Dar al-Kutub, the Egyptian National Library and Archives, is the only other Egyptian library that made it to that list. The BA’s cache of books, references and documents amounts to some 8 million, and was further enriched by the French donation of 500,000 books and manuscripts, the largest ever such donation in the history of libraries.
  • The BA has posted its credit of knowledge online. Over the one-year period from March 2016 till April 2017, the BA’s website received more than a billion visits, an average 100 million per month; almost half of which come from outside Egypt. This in addition to around a million individuals who pay actual visits to the BA every year; most are school or university students.
  • The BA did not limit itself to its superb headquarters overlooking the Mediterranean; it expanded by opening offices in universities and scientific centres, and equipping them with the necessary tools to link them with the BA’s knowledge and cultural services. These offices have worked as branches for the BA throughout Egypt.
  • The BA organises an average 1,300 cultural events every year in Cairo and Alexandria. It has established 500 science clubs in Alexandria schools to promote knowledge and encourage scientific endeavours. The BA also organises scores of conferences every year to discuss intellectual, political and economic issues.
  • The BA is in charge of the African Network for libraries, also of data networks in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and has established the first centre for Coptic studies and teaching Coptic language. It also possesses specialised programmes in scientific research.

This was a glimpse of the BA’s achievements. Speaking of the future challenges and aspirations, Dr Serageldin said: “The real crisis we face is the extent to which we consider culture an education objective and a means of change. Our education system adopts rote learning and does not value culture nor does it see an inherent value in knowledge. It leaves no room for creativity; the end product is an education restricted to the attainment of diplomas as mere ink on paper.”

This is the legacy Dr Fiqi is expected to elaborate and augment. Let me remind that Dr Fiqi was appointed not through a political decision, but upon recommendation of the BA’s Board of Trustees which includes prominent figures: former heads of States and governments, Egyptian and foreign scientists and scholars, intellectuals and public figures.





Resume of Dr Mustafa al-Fiqi


Dr Mustafa al-Fiqi is a prominent politician born on 14 November 1944 in Beheira Governorate.



  • D in Political Science, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS), 1977
  • BA in Political Science, Faculty of Economic and Political Science, Cairo University, 1966

Executive Posts:

  • President of the British University in Egypt (February 2005 – April 2008)
  • Member of Parliament (Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of The Egyptian People’s Assembly) 2001
  • Member of the Middle East Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (2005)
  • Vice president of freedom and human rights (Inter-Parliamentary Union (2010)
  • Member of The Consultative Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, sole representative of the Arab States (2008)
  • Deputy Chairman of the Arab Parliament (2005)
  • Member of the Supreme Council for Policies of the National Democratic Party Chairman of the Committee (Egypt and the World) 2002-2004
  • In charge of communication between the Party and both Arab and Foreign Parties (2004-2005)


  • First Deputy Foreign Minister, 2000
  • Assistant Foreign Minister for Arab and Middle East Affairs, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the League of Arab States, (1999)
  • Ambassador of Egypt to Austria and Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna (IAEA, CTBTO, UNIDO, UNOV, OSCE)
  • Governor of Egypt at IAEA (1995 – 1997) – (1998 – 1999)
  • Chairman of African Group, Vienna, (1995 – 1999)
  • Ambassador – non-resident – to the Republics of Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia 1995-1999
  • Director of the Institute for Diplomatic Studies, The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1993 – 1995)
  • Secretary General of the Advisory Council for Foreign Affairs, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1992 –1993)
  • Secretary of Information and Follow-up to the President of Egypt and Head of the Bureau of Information and Follow-up, Egyptian Presidency (July 1985 – October 1992)


Awards and Decorations:

  • “Silver Cross High Honor” from the Republic of Austria 2001
  • “First Class Science & Arts Honor” from Republic of Austria in 1998
  • “Second Class Republic Honor” from Republic of Tunisia in 1990
  • “Commander Degree National Honor of Merit” from Republic of France in 1989
  • “National Order of Merit” from Republic of Cyprus in 1989
  • “Second Class Republic Order” from Sudan Republic in 1988
  • “Knight Degree Order of Merit” from Kingdom of Sweden in 1987
  • “Knight Degree Order of Merit” from Kingdom of Denmark in 1986
  • “Civil Service Order of Merit” from Kingdom of Spain in 1985
  • “Third Class Order of Merit” from Arab Republic of Egypt in 1983
  • “Fourth Class Order of Merit” from Arab Republic of Egypt in 1975



  • State Merit Prize in Social Sciences, 2003
  • “Personality of the Year”, American University in Cairo (Adham Center for Television Journalism), 1995
  • State Incentive Prize in Political Science, 1994
  • First Award for Best Political Article, the Supreme Council for Science, Literature and Arts, 1966
  • Egyptian Universities Cup for Best Public Speaker, 1965



  • Arabs From The Dogma of Conspiracy to The Thought of Freedoms, Dar El Shorouk- Cairo 2009
  • The Egyptian State and Contemporary Vision: Dar El Shorouk 2005.
  • Harvest of A Century: Al Haiaa Al Amma Lel Ketab, Cairo 2004 – English Edition
  • Dilemma of a Nation: Dar El Shorouk 2003, winner of state prize for best book from the Cairo International Book Fair – January 2004
  • Horse and Donkey, The choice: Dar El Shorouk, 2002
  • Revolution and Reform, Methods and Thoughts: Dar El Shorouk 2002
  • Arabs, Origin and Image : Dar El Shorouk 2002
  • Intellectual Nights in Vienna: Dar El Shorouk, Cairo, 1998 (several editions)
  • The Absent Vision : Dar El Shorouk, Cairo, 1996 (several editions)
  • Dialogue of Generation : Dar El Shorouk, Cairo, 1994 (several editions)
  • Revival of Arab Nationalist Thought : Dar El Shorouk, Cairo, 1993- (several editions) (Winner of incentive state prize and best book prize from the Cairo International Book Fair for the same publishing year)
  • Islam in a Changing World: Al Haiaa Al Amma Lel Ketab, Cairo, 1993 (Arabic Edition) – Dar El Shorouk, Cairo, 1999 (English Edition)
  • Intellectual Exchange : Al Haiaa Al Amma Lel Ketab, Cairo, 1993
  • Copts in Egyptian Political Life: PH.D. Dissertation, London University (SOAS), 1977: Dar El Shorouk and Al Hilal, several Arabic Editions,Cairo 1985 English Edition Al Haiaa Al Amma Lel Kitab, Cairo, 1989
  • One People, One Nation: Co-Authored Volume Introduced by Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, Al- Ahram Press, Cairo, 1981
  • American-Soviet Détente and the Middle East Conflict: Nasser Academy Press, Cairo, 1970



Watani International

21 May 2017


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