Written by Rhiannon Mijovic
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I am public library professional with a passion for travel and a love of exploring all manner of libraries upon those travels. So, imagine both my surprise and delight upon discovering the ruins of Beng Mealea contain a library. Beng Mealea or “lotus pond” is a temple ruin of the Roluos group, in the Angkor Wat National park, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Located around 70km from the main temple complex of Angkor Wat, Beng Mealea is much quieter far less touristy than the other temples and in a more ruinous state then other temple complexes of Angkor Wat. Beng Mealea temple is maintained by the local community and as such less restoration work has occurred here, it is breath takingly beautiful and what one hopes to experience of an ancient temple complex hidden within the Cambodian jungle. Well worth the sometimes hair-raising yet picturesque journey through the Cambodian country side.
Little is known about the history of Beng Mealea, our local guide for the day Nol, believed it was built as a prototype for Angkor Watt by king Suryavarman ll in the early 12th century. It was Nol who pointed out the Library to me, and of course my being an overly inquisitive LIS professional, I just had to clamber over the boulders up to the main entrance to see what I could see.
Alas the building itself is sealed – so no internal exploration allowed, however the intricate carving’s around the building, the carvings at the building’s entrance are simply phenomenal and well worth my awkward clambering. Whilst there is conjecture as to whether these buildings are indeed libraries, donning my librarian hat I am positive one carving depicts three people enjoying ‘story-time’ together; so, for now I am absolutely convinced it is an ancient library!