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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.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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via Pixabay

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All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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