Tracing the past between dust- covered buildings from the Fatimid dynasty, inspecting 50 million-year-old whale bones in the middle of the desert, putting smiles on the faces of underserved children in one of Cairo’s poorest neighborhoods — these are just a few of the activities that nearly 100 international students took part in during AUC’s faculty-led programs last winter.

Oberlin students at Abdeen Palace. Photo by Omar Mohsen

The short-term, customized programs are designed to introduce students to AUC and Egyptian culture under the guidance of a faculty leader. With more than 20 years at the University, faculty- led programs have relied on Egypt’s rich history to help students sharpen their understanding of a variety of topics.

This year, AUC hosted students from Oberlin, George Washington, Utica and Westmont. Each course covered a different topic, from history and political science to healthcare ecosystems and intensive Arabic.

Cultural Connections

Alongside AUC students, a group from Oberlin took the Museums, Historical Memory and Politics in Egypt course, during which they made daily visits to Cairo’s numerous museums and discovered other historical hotspots around the city.

For Nikki Keating, an Oberlin student majoring in Africana studies, the post-museum excursions were just as valuable as the museum visits.

“After the museum, we’d go get food somewhere in the middle of Cairo,” she said. “On top of learning so much about Cairo’s history, I learned so much about the culture and people. Working with AUC students gave me more of a perspective about how Cairo and Egypt as a whole really are.”

Zeinab Abul-Magd, professor of Middle Eastern history at Oberlin, described the constant cultural exchange that took place between AUC and Oberlin students throughout the course. “This program is unique because, for the first time, it brought Oberlin and AUC students together to take the same course, go on the same field visits, do the same activities and sit together in the same classroom,” she said.

Watch: AUC, Oberlin students explore Cairo Museums

Inside Institutions

Diving headfirst into Egypt’s state institutions, a class from The George Washington University led by AUC Trustee Nathan Brown (CASA ’84) convened with Amr Adly, assistant professor in AUC’s Department of Political Science, and AUC students for a course examining the country’s legal and religious establishments and how they interact with Egyptian society.

The monthlong course included lectures on Egyptian law, economy and history as well as visits to key official institutions in Cairo, including the Egyptian Parliament, Al-Azhar, Coptic Patriarchate, Supreme Constitutional Court and Economic Courts.“Through these visits, the students got to interact firsthand with senior officials, politicians and judges,” Adly explained. “Additionally, class discussions between GW and AUC students about historical and current matters in Egypt added some invaluable insights to both groups, allowing them to compare views and bring new ideas into circulation.”

A History of Healing

Utica students traveled back in time with a course covering the vast history of medicine and healthcare in Egypt, from Pharaonic herbalism to recent mental health awareness campaigns.

“Incorporating Egypt’s historical sites into the course brings home how culture and tradition play a very important role in Middle East healthcare,” said Hassan El-Fawal, professor of biomedical sciences and founding director of AUC’s Institute of Global Health and Human Ecology.

The group also engaged with the local community, spending a day with underserved children at Resala Charity Organization. “My favorite part was going to Resala,” said Utica student Madealyn Frankovic. “Not only did I see what kind of therapeutic interventions I could be doing as a future occupational therapist, but I was also able to laugh and smile with the children. That can be just as healing.”

Watch: AUC, Utica students explore history of medicine throughout Egypt

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