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Bosnia opens The Gazi Husrev-beg library housing ancient Islamic manuscripts
A view of an old manuscript on display during the re-opening ceremony of the Gazi Husrev-bey library in Sarajevo, on January 15, 2014. Bosnia opened today a new library to house its ancient Islamic manuscripts, which were saved from destruction during the 1992-1995 war by residents who hid them in eight different locations. Sarajevo re-opened the 477-year old library, containing the largest collection of oriental books and manuscripts in South-Eastern Europe, after it was rebuilt with the financial help from Qatar. AFP PHOTO / ELVIS BARUKCIC.
SARAJEVO (AFP).- Bosnia opened Wednesday a new library to house its ancient Islamic manuscripts, which were saved from destruction during the 1992-1995 war by residents who hid them in eight different locations.

The Gazi Husrev-beg library houses more than 100,000 items, the oldest being an Arabic-language handwritten manuscript dating to 1106.

During the 1990s inter-ethnic war in Bosnia and siege of Sarajevo, the collection had been hidden, with 500 of the most valuable manuscripts and books locked up in a bank vault.

To eliminate the threat that the items could one day be lost, "all manuscripts are digitised and copies are saved at three different places around the world," said Ahmed Alibasic, who chairs the library's management board.

About 60 percent of the collection are in Arabic while 30 percent are in Turkish.

"The knowledge is a gift from God and our task is to transfer it," Bosnia's grand mufti Husein Kavazovic said at an official opening ceremony, attended also by Qatar's Minister for Religion and Islamic affairs Ghaith Bin Mubarak Al-Kuwari.

Qatar donated some $8.8 million (6.5 million euros) towards the construction of the library, which is named after one of Sarajevo's founders who had constructed the first library in the Bosnian capital in 1537.

Bosnia was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1463 to 1878 and more than 40 percent of its 3.8 million inhabitants are Muslims.

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

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