Nadia Niazi Mostafa: Preserving the Past, Educating the Future

Surrounded by great monuments, scholars and researchers studying in Cairo have an unparalleled opportunity to unveil the creativity of Islamic art and architecture. Impassioned by the significance of this dynamic field, Nadia Niazi Mostafa, friend of the University and parent of an AUC alum, has been supporting the study of Islamic art and architecture at AUC for more than a decade.


Mostafa’s love for Islamic art and architecture began in the early 1980s when she took classes in the field. In 1999, she established the Nadia Niazi Mostafa Endowed Award in Islamic Art and Architecture, presented to the winner of the best term paper or thesis. In the same year, she provided humidifiers for the climate-controlled rooms in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library (RBSCL), which preserve documents and antiquities that date back more than 100 years.


In 2001, Mostafa established the Nadia Niazi Mostafa Fellowship in Islamic Art and Architecture, awarded to an Egyptian student enrolled in the graduate program of the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations. The award is based on academic standing and financial need. “All students need support,” said Mostafa. “I know a lot of educated parents who wish they could have sent their children to AUC, but could not afford to. When I was taking courses in Islamic art and architecture, the department barely had enough students to keep it going. Having an annual award for the best thesis and a graduate endowment will help attract students to pursue their master’s degree in Islamic art and architecture, which is a very bountiful field that has not received the attention it deserves.” The fellowship has so far supported a total of 10 students.

Without this fellowship, Ahmad Abdel Aziz ’13 would have had to take a couple of semesters off to save money to pay University fees. “It [the fellowship] literally helped me continue the MA program. allowing me to expand my studies further in art and architecture," said Abdel Aziz. "The moment I got the fellowship, I felt like it is the first step of a dream coming true. AUC, by all means, offers the best education in Egypt. It is known for the education and social life it provides that enhances the personal and intellectual skills of students.”

Students enrolled in the Islamic art and architecture program have the advantage of working in RBSCL, which incorporates the holdings of the former Creswell library — one of the finest collections on Islamic art and architecture in the world. In further support for the preservation and conservation of Egypt’s intellectual and cultural heritage, Mostafa named the Nadia N. Mostafa Room in RBSCL on the New Cairo campus. The multipurpose room is used for specialized instruction, as well as for public seminars and lectures. According to Philip Croom, associate dean and director of RBSCL, “Professors in various fields and specifically Islamic art and architecture, which is our biggest area, come to this room to use our archival books that cannot be taken outside the library.” Additionally, it has hosted the inauguration of the Ramses Wissa Wassef exhibition titled, Ramses Wissa Wassef: The Architect and the Artist.

“The rare books and special collections at AUC are amongst the world’s most important collections,” said Mostafa, adding that these collections are a treasure and must be taken care of at all times. “Even if you can get enormous amounts of information on the Internet, they can't compete with the colored illustrations in a rare book, or the feel of the subject in a book.”

Mostafa believes that the time will come when all this wealth of information will be required, not only by museum curators, university lecturers, artists and decorators, but by novelists and playwrights. “There are thousands of historical novels written today about certain time periods in Western culture, but very few, if any, on the Arab and Muslim world. Hopefully, AUCians, with multi-languages, can help in providing writers and directors here and abroad with information on our rich heritage.”

In addition to Mostafa’s support for the arts, she has also been a steadfast supporter of the University through The AUC Annual Fund, which provides immediate funds to help sustain distinguished faculty members, support curricular innovation, maintain AUC facilities, as well as provide financial aid and scholarships.

Photo caption: Daad Abdel Razik, assistant director at the Rare Books and Special Collections Library; Ali Saleh, husband of Nadia Niazi Mostafa; and Nadia Niazi Mostafa