Egypt reopens ancient Sinai library housing centuries-old manuscripts
Egyptian authorities reopened an ancient library in the south Sinai on Saturday, which holds thousands of centuries-old historical manuscripts after three years of restoration work.
The inauguration ceremony at the renowned St. Catherine Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was attended by Egyptian and Western officials.
The ancient library holds around 3,300 manuscripts of mainly Christian texts in Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, and Slavonic among other languages and is the world's second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library.
"The library is now open to the public and scholars," said Tony Kazamias, an adviser to the monastery's archbishop, adding that restoration work is still underway without specifying a completion date.
The library contains thousands of books and scrolls dating to the 4th century and during the renovation archaeologists apparently found some of Hippocrates' centuries-old medical recipes.
The ancient Greek physician is widely regarded as the "father of western medicine".
"The most valuable manuscript in the library is the Codex Sinaiticus, (which) dates back to the fourth century," said the Rev. Justin, an American monk working as the monastery's librarian.
"This is the most precious manuscript in the world," referring to the ancient, handwritten copy of the New Testament.
The library also held some ancient paintings which are currently on display in the monastery's museum.
"There are beautiful paintings in the manuscripts. When you turn the (pages) there is a flash of gold and colors. It is a living work of art," said Justin.
The officials also inaugurated the Mosaic of the Transfiguration situated in the eastern apse of the monastery's great basilica.
The 6th century mosaic was created at the behest of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who also requested building the monastery.
The mosaic covers 46 square metres and features a rich chromatic range of glass paste, glass, stone, gold and silver tesserae.
Jesus Christ is depicted in its centre between the prophets Elias and Moses.
St Catherine's monastery is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, an area revered by Christians, Muslims, and Jews where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments.
The 6th century monastery, one of the oldest Christian Orthodox ones, is home to a small number of monks who observe prayers and daily rituals unchanged for centuries.Its well-preserved walls and buildings are of great significance to the studies Byzantine architecture.