Important Note: In light of the current situation, Summer@AUC Academic Seminars 2020 program has been canceled. The course may be offered again next year.

Reading Historic Cairo: Books, People, Places

Price includes:

  • Tuition fees
  • Field trip costs and transportation
  • Meals
  • Accommodation (for international students)  

Cairo was, quite literally, the site of many epochal developments in the history of Islam. The architectural and urban history of Cairo intersects with the origins of literature, scholarship and religious thought. Cairo’s many monuments witnessed some of the most central developments in the history of hadith transmission. Sites such as the Sultan Hassan complex represent the very locations at which Islamic law was institutionalized. The ideologies of Sufism, with its khanqas, zawiyas and shrines, helped shape the urban fabric of historic Cairo.

It is this entanglement between books, people and places in medieval and early modern Cairo that we will explore through intensive reading seminars, training workshops and field trips. Students will analyze a range of primary sources (printed texts, manuscripts and archival documents) in the context of Cairo’s social, religious and urban history. Morning sessions will examine these subjects through the prism of architectural history and material culture. Afternoon sessions will be dedicated to examining them through their intellectual and social history.

Students currently enrolled in an accredited graduate degree program; scholars and professionals holding MA degree (or higher)

Fluent English; basic reading ability in Arabic

1. Ahmad Khan

Ahmad Khan, assistant professor of Islamic studies in the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations (ARIC) since 2018, (DPhil and MPhil Oxford University) focuses on four related fields of historical inquiry: heresy and orthodoxy in medieval Islam (8th – 11th centuries); the early Islamic empire at work (8th – 10th centuries); medieval religious and intellectual history; and the history of printing and publishing houses in the Islamic world. Prior to coming to AUC, Khan was a postdoctoral research fellow at Universität Hamburg as part of the ERC project 'The Early Islamic Empire at Work.' His first monograph, Heresy and the Formation of Medieval Sunni Orthodoxy, is forthcoming. He is currently writing his second monograph, which is a thematic history of the early Islamic empire. His other publications include an edited volume entitled, Reclaiming Islamic Tradition: Modern Interpretations of the Classical Heritage (2016) and “Dispatches from Cairo to India: Editors, Publishing Houses, and A Republic of Editors” in the Journal of Islamic Studies, (2020).

2. Noha Abou Khatwa

Noha Abou Khatwa, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations, (PhD University of Toronto, 2017) is currently working on a monograph based on her dissertation, “Calligraphers, Illuminators and Patrons: Mamluk Qur’an Manuscripts from 1341-1412 AD in light of the collection of the National Library of Egypt,” which focuses on manuscripts and the people involved in their creation. Prior to joining the University of Toronto, she worked at the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation, where she started and directed until 2006 the Dar al-Kutub Manuscript Conservation Project. She also founded the Islamic Art Network (, which was created to aid researchers and scholars in the field. Her publications include: “An Ode to Remember: The Burda of al-Busiri in Cairene Ottoman Houses” in Creswell Photographs Re-examined: New Perspectives on Islamic Architecture, ed. B.O’Kane (2009) and “Ottoman Art,” in Treasures of the Islamic Museums in Cairo, ed. B.O’Kane (2006).

1. Dina Bakhoum

A specialist in cultural heritage conservation and management, an engineer and an art historian, Dina Bakhoum managed restoration projects of Islamic architecture in historic Cairo for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (2004 - 2012) and the American Research Center in Egypt (2001 - 2004). Bakhoum’s research interests include topics such as the waqf endowment system and its relation to maintenance and repair, restoration interventions of Islamic and Coptic monuments by the Comité de conservation des monuments de l’art arabe (1881-1950 in Egypt), the link between historic photographs and restoration, and the foundation of the Coptic museum. She teaches on Islamic art and architecture, and the notion of world heritage. She is currently finishing her PhD dissertation under co-supervision between the University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne and Leiden University. Her publications include “Mamluk Minarets in Modern Egypt: Tracing Restoration Decisions and Interventions,” Annales Islamologiques (2016) and “The Waqf System: Maintenance, Repair and Upkeep,” in Held in Trust, Waqf in the Islamic World, ed. P. Ghazaleh (2011).

2. May al-Ibrashy

May al-Ibrashy (PhD SOAS) is a licensed architectural engineer with 25 years of field experience in conservation and heritage management in historic Cairo. She is the founder and chair of Megawra-Built Environment Collective, a twin institution consisting of an Egyptian NGO and consultancy working on issues of the built environment. She coordinates Athar Lina, an initiative run by Megawra-Built Environment Collective in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Cairo governorate that conserves the heritage of al-Khalifa in historic Cairo and conceives of it as a driver for community development. She is also an adjunct lecturer of architecture at AUC. Her publications include: “The Life and Times of the Mamluk Turba; Processual Subversion of Inceptual Intent,” Annales Islamologiques (2013) and “The Mamluk Cemeteries of Cairo,” in Soufisme au Caire Mamelouke, ed. R. McGregor & A. Sabra (2006).

3. Richard McGregor

2019-2020 Fulbright Scholar, Egypt, at AUC, Richard McGregor (PhD McGill, 2001) is an associate professor of religion and Islamic studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. His primary field of research is medieval Egypt and Syria, with a focus on public religious practice, ritual, and Sufism. He is the author of two monographs, co-editor of two collected volumes and one translation. His most recent book, Islam and the Devotional Object: Seeing Religion in Egypt and Syria appears with Cambridge University Press, in 2020. For ten years he was the area director of “Critical Studies in Asian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions” in Vanderbilt’s Graduate Department of Religion, and he is the coordinator of the Arabic language program at Vanderbilt University.

Ellen Kenney

Associate Professor of Islamic art and architecture and director of graduate studies in the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations (ARIC), Ellen Kenney (PhD NYU, 2004) co-taught a summer course sponsored by AUC and Koç University (2018), and participates with the ongoing Getty-sponsored workshop, “Mediterranean Palimpsests – Connecting the Art and Architectural Histories of Medieval and Early Modern Cities.” Before joining AUC in 2011, she worked in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her interests center on the eastern Mediterranean and she is currently working on a book project titled Medieval Damascus and Material Culture: The City in Objects. Her publications include: Power and Patronage in Medieval Syria: The Architecture and Urban Works of Tankiz al-Nasiri (2009) and “Interpolated Domestic Space: The Metropolitan Museum’s Damascus Room Re-installed,” International Journal of Islamic Architecture 7.2 (2018).

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Regular Working Hours: Sunday - Thursday, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Ramadan Working Hours: Sunday - Thursday, 9:00 am - 2:00 pm