It all began with read’

The story behind Qatar National Library


It all began with read’

The story behind Qatar National Library

Described as one of the world’s most prominent centres of learning, research and culture, Qatar National Library (QNL) is somewhat of a guardian of the country’s rich heritage.

This state-of-the-art building overlooks Education City in Doha and inside it houses just over a million books, periodicals and newspapers.

A 21st century library with a historical soul — Qatar National Library really is a book lover’s dream and you will definitely want to pick up every novel within these inspiring halls.

Clever architecture

IN PICTURES: Inside the Qatar National Library (L), Dutch architect and head of design, Rem Koolhaas (above)

The building itself is worth visiting just to marvel at its breathtaking design. Designed by world-renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the 45,000 sqm library was made to resemble two pieces of paper that are pulled apart and folded diagonally at the corners to create a shell-like structure, enclosing the open-plan interior.

The award-winning architect, also known for his work on Beijing’s iconic CCTV Headquarters and the De Rotterdam — the largest building in the Netherlands — also designed the Qatar Foundation (QF) Headquarters, which opened in early 2016.

Koolhaas’ concept for creating the library was to inspire multiple uses and draw the community together. His vision for all his designs in Qatar have been to create spaces that not only serve as places of learning, but also play a part over the long term in the development of Qatar and the realisation of QF’s mission to develop a knowledge-based economy.

The visual impact inside the library is a feast for the senses. Upon entering visitors are met by a single huge space, adorned with slender pillars and a glossy white origami-like ceiling that reflects and amplifies the abundant natural lighting coming through the huge diamond-shaped glass walls.

You’ll also find bookshelves rising out of the floor and materials such as marble and stainless steel combining, to depict the progression of knowledge, from past to present.

According to Rem Koolhaas, “The interior is so large it’s on an almost urban scale: it could contain an entire population, and also an entire population of books.

And you can forget the stereotypical dusty library tropes — the QNL was designed to allow the Qatari year-round sunshine into the building so expect bright, well-lit airy spaces.

3 other projects by Rem Koolhaas

1. Casa da Música

Porto, 2005

2. CCTV Headquarters

Beijing, 2012

3. De Rotterdam

Rotterdam, 2013

Preserving history

IN PICTURES: The Heritage Library provides an extensive range of historical sources about Qatar and the region, including Qurānic manuscripts


the year of the library’s opening 

>800 000

the number of books on the library shelves as well as more than 500,000 eBooks, periodicals and special collections


the number of manuscripts that can be found including Qurānic, Ḥadīth and Fiqh collections

At the heart of the building is the Heritage Library, where you’ll find a permanent exhibition of historic materials outlining the social, economic, scientific and religious development throughout the Arabic and Islamic world.

In 2012 a new division, known as the Heritage Library, was created, holding collections of rare and valuable texts and artefacts, open to the wider public to view.

A truly unique contribution to Qatar’s cultural landscape the Heritage Library collection includes rare and valuable archival documents, books and periodicals; early Arabic books, journals, magazines and newspapers; and Arabic manuscripts, maps, atlases, globes and historical photographs.

Many of the artefacts date back as early as the 15th century, and are among the rarest and most valuable features of the Heritage Library’s collection.

In order to preserve the nation’s most important cultural and historical items the Library has put in place measures such as climate-controlled display cases and a digitisation lab that allows scholars from across the world to access historical materials digitally.

Delve into Qatar’s rich history by visiting their archive centre, which is home to centuries-old original documents, letters, telegrams, certificates, invoices that capture Qatar and the Arab world’s unique culture and heritage. You’ll also find early translations and editions of the Qur’ān, and early works of famous European scholars on the history of the Islamic world at the QNL’s Heritage Library.

For those with an interest in Islam there’s no shortage of religious texts and manuscripts at the Heritage Library. The collection boasts over 2,400 manuscripts consisting of Qurānic manuscripts and Ḥadīth and Fiqh collections, including several copies of the famous al-Bukhārī Ḥadīth collection. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a page from the famous 9th century Andalusian Blue Quran.

A 21st Century Library

IN PICTURES: Qatar National Library is one of the most technologically advanced libraries in the world

The QNL is one of the most technologically advanced libraries in the world. In stark contrast to its ancient and preserved Heritage Library, the building’s interactive properties, such as automated checkout and return stations and a people mover system, makes it accessible for all visitors.

There are also a wide range of computer systems, tablets, interactive screens and audio-visual equipment throughout the building.

If you’re looking for a quiet space to research or study the assistive technology room has 16 computer stations, equipped with cutting-edge hardware and software technology. The Innovation Station is a dedicated space within Qatar National Library for innovators, artists, musicians, creators, and learners to express themselves.

Offering free access to different creative areas for all users, it consists of a 3D-printing and scanning section, recording studio, and videography/photography room with equipment for digital design, musical instruments, virtual reality accessories, DIY electronics, and much more.

Fun for the family

IN PICTURES: The library hosts numerous activities for children and their families

For families looking for a relaxing day out the QNL has plenty of facilities to keep little ones busy and inspired.

There’s an inspirational learning space for children to not only fall in love with reading but also to encourage their curiosity through engaging with the Library’s space and its vast collection of resources.

This specialised library space houses educational toys and fun electronic resources, as well as a collection of more than 100,000 children’s books.

For older children there’s the photography set, a recording studio, and even a fab-lab with 3D printers to learn how to design and create objects.

The library also hosts numerous activities for children and their families, such as interactive story-times, workshops, early literacy programmes, creative art activities, cooking, and theatre clubs and so much more.

Photos: 1 – The Qatar National Library/Facebook, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 – the Qatar National Library/Facebook, 3 – Ben A. Pruchnie / Stringer, 4 – Wojtek Gurak/Flickr, 5 – Waitforlight/Getty Images, 6 – Gerard Stolk/Flickr

Stay up-to-date with our stories about Qatar and Russia

Stay up-to-date with our stories about Qatar and Russia