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History of the Future Library Building
In 1999, by decision of the Council of Ministers, the building of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the Lebanese University, located in the district of Sanayeh, was allocated to the Lebanese National Library, whose temporary premises are currently located in the Free Zone of the Port of Beirut.

Located in the heart of Beirut at Ramlet al-Zarif, the Sanayeh (Crafts) building is part of a large complex that originally comprised a Hospital in the West (now the Ministry of Interior) and the School of Arts and Crafts in the East (future National Library), facing a large public garden (the Garden of Sanayeh).

Aerial view from the north side, 1917 [source TNA Air 20-608]
This complex was built during the reign of Sultan Adulhamid II, hence the initial name of the buildings: Hamidian School and Hamidian Hospital. The first stone was laid in September 1905 and the construction was completed in 1907.

Ahmad Abbas al-Azhari was the initiator and director of the Arts and Crafts School whose primary mission was to provide practical lessons in arts and crafts to needy children who aspired to work in trade or industry.

Both buildings were officially launched on August 19, 1907, by the Wali Khalil Pacha, governor of Beirut, to mark the birthday of the Sultan Abdulhamid II, in the presence of foreign consuls and prominent citizens of the city. It was the largest urban development project at the time in the provincial capital of Beirut.

The inauguration of the Sanayeh buildings August 17, 1907
Over the years, the building housed several state institutions. In 1959, it became home to the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the Lebanese University. In 1999, by decision of the Council of Ministers the premises were officially allocated to the National Library. However, the latter only took possession of the premises in 2006, after the relocation of the Faculty in its new premises in Hadath.

That same year (2006), the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, made a donation to the Lebanese Government for the construction of the future National Library (including the restoration of the present premises and the construction of new spaces).

The Hospital on the left and the School of Arts and Crafts on the right [Source : Salnamat Beirut 1908]
The Sanayeh building is typical of the Ottoman architecture of the late 1880's. The two-story U-shaped buildings are rather imposing, symmetrical in plan and height, with a brick-tiled roof.

Inside, wide corridors lead to large halls.
The lower floor of the Arts and Crafts School had fourteen classrooms and five halls.

Photo Nabil Ismail
In their initial state, the West building was 44 meters long and 30 meters large, and the East building was 60 meters by 60 meters. Over the years, both buildings underwent many changes.

The West building was considerably enlarged, while in the 1950s the East building was reduced by ten meters on the north side to allow for the drilling of Hamra Street, which separates the buildings from the Central Bank.

Today, new works will transform this building into a national library: the restoration of the existing building with the preservation of its heritage cachet, and the construction of new spaces needed for the missions of the National Library. This new National Library should be inaugurated in 2014.

Fin de Siècle, The Making of Beirut, The Making of an Ottoman Provincial Capital, Jens Hanssen, Oxford Historical Monographs