ABU DHABI // Tucked away on the third floor of the northern minaret of the country's biggest mosque lies a new addition to the capital's literary selection.
A new library, considered to be the country's first to be located in a mosque, opened inside Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque last night.
Lining its shelves are an array of journals, research studies, manuscripts and books, some 200 years old, on subjects including Islamic culture and history.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, was given a tour of the facility. Earlier, he donated many of the books the library currently stocks. He was quick to enquire about its future expansion plans.
"As his highness indicated, we will need it to be bigger, there will be an extension in another part of the mosque later on," said Abudllah al Tahir, the ameen al maktaba, or library keeper. "This is not only a mosque, it is a jami, which means a centre, a combination of things; that is why we have a library here."
The opening of the library is a step towards the centre becoming "one of the top international centres focused on Islamic civilisations as perceived and documented by world cultures", Mr al Tahir said.
Dr Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre, added: "Within the next 10 years, the library will have a reputation for the quality of its content on themes of Islamic civilisation. The opening of the centre's library is aimed to promote science and knowledge. These are the key principles that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan sought to spread and root in the United Arab Emirates."
The library's material mainly covers journals, research studies and manuscripts in relation to Islam, Islamic architecture and science and arts.
"We have books on Islamic culture, islamic history, architecture, Islamic expeditions, rare books and even coin collections," Mr al Tahir said. "Some of our books are 200 years old. In total, we have 5,000 books, journals and items here. Some books are also in old languages, which are no longer used."
Within the next two months, 200 more books will arrive. A database of books, journals, visual and audio tapes will also be made available.
One of the key goals of the library is to promote "intellectual and religious discussion" by people of all faiths, Mr al Tahir said, adding: "We want to encourage discussion here, not just reading."
One of the first books Sheikh Mansour inspected during his tour was one on the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
"This is the 1,984th edition of 3,000 in the world," said Abdullah al Shami, project coordinator at Shawati', the book's publishing company.
"We picked that one because it was the same year when Sheikh Zayed decided that he wanted this mosque to be built."
"The book is mostly visual, we have been researching and gathering information for the past three years," Laila al Abbasi, special projects consultant of Shawati', added. The book includes a detailed chapter on Sheikh Zayed's vision and life journey, and statistics on the mosque.
The library is open every weekday from 8am until 8pm.