Visiting Assistant Professor
Core Curriculum


Brief Biography

Nora Derbal joined The American University in Cairo in 2018 as visiting assistant professor at the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Egyptology and postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Core Curriculum. She graduated in 2017 with a doctoral thesis in Islamic Studies from Freie Universität Berlin. Her dissertation, “Charity for the Poor in Jeddah Saudi Arabia, 1961–2015,” won the German Dissertation Price (Deutscher Studienpreis) in 2018, awarded annually by the honorary patron President of the German Bundestag. She is currently turning the thesis into a book, titled Charity in Saudi Arabia: Associational Life under Authoritarianism (working title).


  • Dr. phil. (2017), Islamic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • M.A. (2011), Magister Artium, double major in Islamic Studies from Freie Universität Berlin and Modern History from Humboldt University zu Berlin
  • I.B. (2003), International Baccalaureate Diploma, Salem International College, Germany


  • 2018 The German Dissertation Price (5.000 EUR), Koerber Foundation
  • 2018 Emerging Scholar Dissertation Award of Merit, International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR)

Courses taught at AUC

SOC 3060       Social Constructions of Difference: Race, Class, Gender 

SOC 1099       “Islam” and “The West” 

SOC 2005       Arab Society 

SOC 1099       Arab Youth: Hopes, Realities, Future? 

SOC 2301       Social Problems of the Middle East 

SOC 1099       Civil Society Revisited: Studying Community Organizations, Charities and NGOs in the Arab World 

SOC 3060       Development Agencies 

In the media

Selected Publications

Journal Articles (Reviewed)

  • Derbal, Nora. Zwischen Reformversprechen und Status quo: Frauen in Saudi-Arabien, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte (APuZ) 46 (2014), 1924.
  • Derbal, Nora. “Private Charity for Public Welfare? The Renaissance of Benevolent Engagement in Saudi Arabia against the Background of an Overburdened Welfare State,” Orient 5 (2012), 54–59.


  • Derbal, Nora. “In the Shadow of the ‘Arab Spring’ – Youth Networks, Benevolent Activism and Counterrevolution in Saudi Arabia,” Omar Bortolazzi ed., Youth Networks, Informal Society and Social Entrepreneurship. Case Studies in the Post-Revolutionary Arab World, Bologna: Bologna University Press 2015, 23–42.
  • Derbal, Nora. “Domestic, Religious, Civic? Notes on Institutionalized Charity in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” Robert Lacey and Jonathan Benthall eds., Gulf Charities Today. Arab Islamic Philanthropy in the ‘Age of Terror’ and Beyond, Berlin: Gerlach Press 2014, 145– 167.
  • Derbal, Nora. “Lifestyle and Liberty in the Name of Piety and Islam. Philanthropy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo ed., Takaful 2011 – The First Annual Conference on Arab Philanthropy and Civic Engagement. Selected Research, Cairo: The American University in Cairo (AUC) Press 2011, 46–75.

Conference Proceedings

Research Interest

Civil society in the Middle East, Muslim humanitarianism, Islamic charity, youth in the Middle East, Gulf Studies, Orientalism, history of Oriental Studies, “Islam” as epistemic field.