There are more than 200 UAE libraries across the country that range from academic to innovative, each and every one of them is bursting with books to read and borrow.
Not only do they offer endless reading opportunities, but many other purposes, too: serving as co-working spaces for entrepreneurs, learning spaces, and centers providing activations and activities for children and adults.
Dubai Culture is keen on helping people make reading a daily habit in line with the government’s mandate to develop a knowledge-based society.
“We always strive to create programs to ensure people have access to reading materials and enhance their skills,” Eiman Al Hammadi, acting manager of the Libraries and Affairs Section, explains.
Those include summer and winter camps, a School of Life program rolled out across three libraries initially to focus on fostering literature, art, and life skills.
“Since launching the School of Life in June, we have helped build a bridge among families by encouraging them to engage with their children and explore their talents,” she says.
Mohammed Bin Rashid Library — Dubai
This modern new library, which opened in June, is now the largest in the Arab world, spread across 54,000 square meters and seven floors, offering 600,000-plus titles.
The exterior is built in the shape of a rehl, the traditional wooden book rest used to hold the Quran. Overlooking Al Jaddaf by the Dubai Creek, this library offers stunning views of the waterway, perfect for finding a cozy nook to get lost in a gripping narrative. Architecture aside, this library has it all, offering events, a business center, a conference room and much more.
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library collection includes General, Young Adult, Children’s, Map and Atlas, Media and Arts, Business, Emirates, Periodicals and Special Collections sections.
• Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Al Jaddaf, Dubai. For more information: 047 073333
Zayed Central Library — Al Ain
Opened in 2016, Zayed Central Library is the largest library in Al Ain, offering more than 100,000 books for both children and adults in Arabic and English. Expect to find reading rooms, a theatre, and even a book store.
The National Library of Abu Dhabi also hosts engaging festivals such as the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and the Al Ain Book Fair, and awards programs such as the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, with these events building awareness and interest in reading and writing among the UAE population and the wider Arabic-speaking world.
• Zayed Central Library, Al Ain. For more information: 037 118 266
Jameel Art Centre, Dubai
Nestled on the ground floor of the Jameel Art Centre, the Jameel Library is dedicated to making accessible the knowledge embedded in arts and culture; enabling the construction of multiple narratives and making visible the fluidity of these ideas. Key subjects include arts education projects; contemporary discourse and theory from and about the region; plus selected artists’ monographs and mapped journeys of practice and influence.
It’s a space that also hosts talks and activities; the perfect community feel for artists and book lovers.
• Jameel Arts Centre, Jaddaf Waterfront, Dubai. For more information: 04 873 9800
Sharjah Public Library, Sharjah
Viewed as the cultural and literary hub of the UAE, Sharjah Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in the Emirate. This public reading center was originally established in 1925 as Qasimi Library, by Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi.
If you’re looking for somewhere peaceful, Sharjah Public Library is a perfect spot to get some work done — it is largely visited by academics. The library has been transformed into an Electronic Library with bibliographic lists and indexes to help readers identify the material with ease.
• Sharjah Public Library, Cultural Square, Al Abar Sharjah. For more information: 06 516 6888
Al Safa Art & Design Library — Dubai
Driving past the Al Safa Art & Design Library on Al Wasl, you might think you’ve stumbled across a rather large trendy café. While you can certainly buy a good cup of coffee, there is so much more to this airy modern space. After a major revamp in 2019, during the UAE’s National Month of Reading, Al Safa Art & Design Library opened again with modern multi-purpose rooms and work areas. A dedicated children’s library has been designed to engage the younger generation with an activity room, a media room, a book room, a piano, an interactive digital wall, a green wall, and a feature wall.
This library holds an impressive collection spanning over 62,000 books, surrounded by art installations, paintings, and photographs with access to a large collection of books and resources covering various fields of art and design including fine art, architecture, calligraphy, music, performing arts, and much more.
• Al Safa Art & Design Library, Al Wasl, Dubai. For more information: 800 33222
The Old Library — Dubai
From humble beginnings in 1969, this 50-year-old library is run by volunteers across the city. It now boasts over 25,000 books on a variety of topics — the top 50 titles are children’s books — and is a wonderful space for learning and reading. Note that you do have to be over 18 years old to be a member of this library, although youngsters can borrow through relatives who are members.
• The Old Library, Gold & Diamond Park Building 7, Dubai. For more information: 04 321 3939
Al Mankhool Library — Dubai
Located in Bur Dubai, Al Mankool Library consists of two floors with a wide selection of over 35,000 books – made up of scientific references, magazines, and newspapers in both Arabic and English. Al Mankool Library supports reading and helps to spread the culture and provides appropriate library services available for all to use.
• Al Mankhool Library, Al Mankhool, Dubai. For more information: 04 515 5200
Hayley Alexander is a freelance writer based in Dubai who is passionate about reporting on all things arts & culture, wellness and travel across the wonderful emirates.