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.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."