Add this library to your travel bucket list — because it's super old and super pretty.

Old libraries are pretty dope.

Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. Photo from Benoit Doppagne/AFP/Getty Images.

For bibliophiles like me, walking through an old library feels like walking through a cathedral. The way the light filters through the windows, the sound of hushed conversations, the slightly rough feeling of a leather-bound book sliding out of a shelf ... old libraries even have their own smell.


And there are some really amazing old libraries, like Trinity College Library pictured above, or New York Public Library, or the British Library — all of which I've either loved visiting or keenly want to.

But if we want to talk about old libraries, the Qarawiyyin Library beats them all.

The library courtyard. Photo by Samia Errazouki/AP.

Qarawiyyin is the oldest library in the world and is located in Fez, Morocco. The first foundations were put down in the year 859, making the library nearly 1,200 years old.

Unfortunately, at nearly 1,200 years old, the library was seriously starting to show its age.

I'm talking broken tiles, no insulation, cracked beams, walls that were starting to look considerably un-wall-like ... there were even exposed electrical wires and sewage problems.

And what's worse (at least from a bibliophile's perspective) the books were in danger! Water had started to creep into the collections, threatening the library's some 4,000 manuscripts. If you've ever accidentally dropped a favorite novel into a bath before, I don't have to tell you how quickly water can ruin books. And when we're talking about books older than the Renaissance, even just a spike in humidity can do some serious damage.

Taken together with the crumbling structure, the library needed to be closed off to the public for at least a couple years.

In 2012, the government asked architect Aziza Chaouni to help restore the library.

And, today, it's going to be ready for visitors again!

A reading room. Photo by Samia Errazouki/AP.

The pictures from inside the library look amazing. Chaouni, a Fez native, has restored the library to its original glory, revealing a distinctly elegant building full of elaborately carved windows and archways, with Arabic calligraphy built into the walls and golden chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

Behind the scenes, though, Chaouni's renovations have also added a distinctly modern aspect to the library as well. Air conditioners run surreptitiously behind wooden carvings. Solar panels capture sunlight and help power the building. And, yes, they've even fixed the plumbing problems.

The books have also gotten their own upgrades.

Photo by Samia Errazouki/AP.

An underground canal system will help drain that book-killing moisture away from the building, and a lab full of advanced machinery will help scholars preserve and digitize the rare books.

There's even a special highly-secure room for the rarest and most valuable documents, including a 1,200-year-old copy of the Quran.

This copy of the Quran is over 1,200 years old. Photo by Samia Errazouki/AP.

Precise temperature and humidity controls and strict security mean these super-rare, super-valuable texts and manuscripts receive the care and attention they deserve.

These changes mean that, once again, the library will be open to everyone, and it will rejoin Fez's amazing cultural legacy.

In fact, the entire neighborhood, known as the Medina of Fez, is so amazing that the UN has declared it a World Heritage Site.

The library is also attached to a mosque and university, and it features archives, reading rooms, cafes, and even a courtyard adorned with fountains.

Photo by Samia Errazouki/AP.

No definite opening date has been set yet, but the Qarawiyyin Library is expected to open by the end of the year. Morocco's King Mohammed VI is expected to inaugurate it when that day comes.

Chaouni wants this renovation to be part of a plan to restore Fez's status as a cultural center of Morocco, too. New music festivals have helped young people rediscover the medina and Chaouni has a plan to restore the river in Fez after years of pollution.

"I would like my kids to be able to see this heritage," Chaouni told The Guardian.

This library's story is particularly heartening considering how many important Islamic cultural sites are in trouble right now.

While Morocco has been more or less an island of stability, many other nations in the region have not been so fortunate. In 2013, for example, insurgents set fire to a library of historic manuscripts in Timbuktu, Mali. Farther away, ISIS has been targeting cultural sites throughout Iraq and Syria, including destroying thousands of books and documents when they raided the libraries of Mosul, Iraq.

This is especially hard to see considering the intimate and historic connection between scholarship and Islam.

Libraries are more than just a collection of books. They're a part of our heritage.

When the Qarawiyyin Library's founder, Fatima al-Fihri, first envisioned the library, she wanted to give her community a place of learning and wisdom.

It's awesome to see that nearly 1,200 years later that heritage is still intact.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less