Xanana Reading Room
Named after Xanana Gusmão, leader of the resistance, prime minister and former first president of the newly independent East Timor
(see under history
), this place in Dili
is an idiosyncratic mix of museum, art gallery, library and cultural centre.
What there is to see: The main building is a pretty Portuguese colonial villa painted bright white with a curved set of steps leading to the entrance. Inside are three big rooms. The one to the right is an art gallery exhibition space, showing a photo collection at the time of my visit (in August 2014). The room to the left serves as the reception, office, shop and, by the look of it, jumble room. The central room is kind of a shrine to Xanana Gusmão, displaying various items related to the big revolutionary and his family.
All manner of photos, political posters and awards hang on the walls or stand on the floor leaning against the walls (as if in temporary storage only), and various trinkets – medals, statuettes, cups, etc. – are stacked in glass display cases.
The actual reading room is located in another building at the back of the compound, and is indeed just that: a library. This is more for locals, although they are said to have material in English as well, including audiovisual sources. But it's not touristy in any case, and you get some surprised looks when you pop your head in.
In the corner opposite the library is a kind of open-air cultural centre space for music, dance or theatre events. Along the southern wall are various graffiti and murals, including educational comic strips, as it were, informing people about their political role as citizens.
By far the most interesting item from a dark-tourism perspective is the display of the wrecked jeep in which Xanana was targeted in an assassination attempt in 2008. He survived unhurt (unlike then president Ramos-Horta who was seriously injured in a parallel assassination attempt). The sight of the bullet holes in the car's body and the damaged central console inside are a sobering reminder of the fragility of the peace in newly independent Timor-Leste.
in the east of the city centre of Dili
, East Timor
, on Rua Belarmino Lobo.
Access and costs: easy and free
's government and financial centre it's walkable: either proceed east from the Government Palace on Rua Jose Maria Marques and then turn left, or stroll eastwards along the waterfront promenade and turn right just before Lecidere Park (with the Virgin Mary statue).
Opening times: information provided varies, but it should be open at least from 10 a.m. (possibly 9 a.m.) to 5 p.m. (possibly 6 p.m.) during the week, but only to 3 or 4 p.m. on Saturdays, closed Sundays.
Time required: if you just come to have a look around (rather than spending time reading in the library) you won't need more than about 15-20 minutes.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Dili
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
in general see under Dili
– the nearest of Dili's few mainstream-like attractions is the waterfront promenade just to the north. This stretch has been developed into a kind of landscaped park, offering an oasis of tranquillity ideal for a relaxing stroll. On a clear enough day you can see Atauro island on the horizon.
- Xanana Reading Room 1 - main building
- Xanana Reading Room 2 - photo exhibition
- Xanana Reading Room 3 - memorabilia shrine
- Xanana Reading Room 4 - Xanana Gusmao
- Xanana Reading Room 5 - national hero
- Xanana Reading Room 6 - office
- Xanana Reading Room 7 - 2008 assassination attempt car
- Xanana Reading Room 8 - interior damage
- Xanana Reading Room 9 - art is life