An Ocean of Words

ParadiseBooks have always held a special allure for me. Even as a small child, my mother used to recount, I would gently page through magazines and books, careful not to rip any pages. Spending hours just gazing at the pictures, lost in a world of my own, long before I could read, was how I would often spend my days.

Not much has changed since then, as I still like to spend big chunks of time with my nose buried in a book. I have, since I can remember, gravitated towards the written word. Enamoured by its ability to conjure up landscapes, people, experiences, philosophies and enchanting stories, I have to admit that books have consistently been my most favoured companions. Slightly inept in social gatherings, I much prefer spending time on my own.

I have always appreciated books as gifts, and buy as many as I can afford, yet it is towards the local library that I tend to gravitate. Libraries are treasure troves of free reading material and have, without fail, exuded a magnetic pull on my soul. There is something about the dusty smell of libraries, steeped in time, that is hard to resist. Choosing a book takes time. It involves fingers gliding over dust covers, reading endless blurbs, and allowing sufficient time for the imagination to take flight. Once I dip my toes in the ocean of words contained between two covers, I find it hard to resurface.

The National Library in Al Ain Mall is bright and light. There is no dust clinging to anything, or shadowy corners full of mystery. It is organised and categorised to perfection. Artworks adorn the walls, tiles are polished, reading tables and chairs are neatly arranged. An energy of orderliness permeates this modern space. Most of the books are in Arabic, but they are interspersed with English pearls beckoning my fingers to pull them out and take them home. My method of picking a book is to abandon any pre-conceived notions of subject matter and to simply stroll through the aisles allowing my eyes and fingers to lead the way. Best of all is that it does not cost me a cent if I fail to make the ‘perfect’ choice. It simply means that I will return it much sooner than the three weeks I am allowed to borrow it, and exchange it for another. Libraries often stock books that are hard to find or expensive to buy, yet, by entering this magical world, I gain access to what would have otherwise been inaccessible.

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Al Ain National Library opening hours: Saturday – Thursday: 10am – 10pm

Becoming a member is very simple. You need to bring a passport sized photograph, AED 400 refundable deposit, and a copy of your passport or Emirates ID. Simply complete the form at the library, and you will be issued with a user name and password. It takes about 2 weeks for your membership card to arrive (the library will call you when it is there), but you can immediately take out some books.

If you need more than the allowed 3 weeks to finish your books, you may renew it twice. To renew you can simply call the library (Tel: 03 711 8260 / 03 711 8270), or go online to do so ( It is easy and effortless.