Arabic Programs

Jun 21 2016

Here is my ongoing list of reputable Arabic programs for study outside of college classrooms (summer study, independent study). Please feel free to comment if you have experience with these or other programs that should be listed.

Egypt (Unfortunately, political unrest may render Egypt a poor choice for study abroad this year. Syria is not currently listed for the same reason. May Egyptians and Syrians be granted more political stability and civil rights.)

  1. Alexandria American Councils for International Education Arabic Overseas – This option provides intermediate level instruction. For U.S. or Canadian residents.
  2. Cairo



  1. American University of Beirut (AUB)
  2. Beirut ALPS Beirut


  1. Meknes AALIM
  2. Rabat



  • California: Middlebury Language School – This option is best for beginner to advanced students who want to focus on Modern Standard Arabic.
  • Maryland: Here is another option for beginner to advanced students who want to learn spoken Arabic alongside standard Arabic, and who are unable to study abroad in the summer.
  • Texas: UT Austin provides another option for beginner to advanced students (qualified high school and college students) to study Arabic in the summer without traveling out of the United States.
  • Wisconsin: Here is a program of which I would appreciate any news and reviews.

No responses yet

Arabic Teaching & Studying

Jun 21 2016


Resources for Arabic Language Teaching & Studying

Arabic Language Resources by Dialect ~ مصادر بالعربي

  • I. Egyptian ~ مصري – MelodyTV
  • II. North African ~ دارجة – Hespress News
  • III. Levantine ~ شامي
  • IV. Gulf ~ خليجي – Qatar TV

No responses yet

Arts of the Arab World III: Print Culture

Jun 21 2016

EgyptianPreacherWomanPhoto of Magda Amer from BBC







Resources for Arabic Literature & Culture

Note: Manuscript photo from l-Jaami‘ l-Kbiir of Meknes, Morocco.

For more on the role of literature in Arab society see here.

For SciFi, see here.

For Moroccan literature in English, see here.

Note: Manuscript painting of a library in Basra

in Al-Maqamat by Al-Hariri (1054-1122),

copied and painted at al-Wasili in Baghdad (1236).

Manuscript held in Paris, BnF.

No responses yet

Arts of the Arab World II: Popular Culture & Verbal Art

Jun 21 2016






Image of Bayad playing his oud



Some of my favorite contemporary Moroccan artists:

See here for a concert of psalms sung in Arabic, performed by Lebanese Catholic nun Sister Marie Keyrouz.

 Poetry and Oral Compositions

The oldest extant example of Arabic literature is poetry, composed and performed orally. Here is a 9th century poem in English translation.

See here for James Montgomery’s translations of “Horse, Hawk, and and Cheetah: Three Arabic Hunting Poems by Abu Nuwas” (from the early 9th c.)

Check out this post for spoken word of the present day.


The most influential example of Arabic literature is the Qur’an, the sacred text of Islam, and it too was recited orally. German scholar Angelika Neuwirth has written of the Qur’an as a “late antique text” that emphasizes knowledge. See here for more on the implications of her work.

Note: Qur’an Manuscript photo from l-Jaami‘ l-Kbiir of Meknes, Morocco.


 Public Culture

In addition to poetry, aphorisms, and tales, oral culture can also include rumors that mold public discourses.

Broader than oral culture, public culture can include almost any art. Here are more resources on public culture in specific areas:


Moroccan Malhun (Sung) Poetry

(more to be added later).

No responses yet

Arts of the Arab World I: Material Culture

Jun 21 2016

I have read a lot about the glorious accomplishments of “the Arabs” or “the Muslims” in the distant past. Instead of focusing on some mythic golden age, this site includes any material culture that I find beautiful and noteworthy. So while some examples are historical, some are contemporary.

For some incredibly beautiful historic art and architecture photos and information on patterns, see here.

Photo by Radwa El Barouni, carving in Fes


One of my favorite pieces of art is a blue and white lamp from the sixteenth century. For some contemporary ceramics that I think are well worth checking out, see the work of Myriam Mourabit (Rabat, Morocco).


One of the most distinctive kinds of woodwork in the Arab World is mashrabiyya, latticed screens traditionally fitted together without any adhesive or hardware. Historically, they developed as a strategy for comfort and privacy so that urban families could enjoy fresh air from the outdoors without exposing themselves to public scrutiny. For contemporary woodwork, I can recommend Nadim (Cairo, Egypt).

(Photo by Ruth B.)

Painting / Drawing

One of the most valued arts throughout the Islamic world is calligraphy. See here for the highlights from a contemporary calligraphy exhibition in Malaysia. This site has featured the work of Moataz Nasr of Cairo here.


Preview: khyamiyya appliqué (Egypt), Tally Art (southern Egypt), embroidery in Palestine and Jordan…


Top-of-the-line Azza Fahmy jewelry (Egypt)

More kinds of material culture to follow…


Photo by Radwa El Barouni


No responses yet

Returning to Ourselves

May 29 2016

A poem for spring–for thawing out, for growth, for warmth, for vacation. My husband and I recently learned that we are expecting a son in the fall. Facing the prospect of motherhood is complex for me: I don’t picture myself as a mother yet. Aren’t parents all grown up? This poem does a nice job, I think, of reminding all of us of our inner children, our childlike nature, perhaps our best selves…

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 2.01.35 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 2.01.54 PMSource for English text: This Same Sky poetry collection by Naomi Shihab Nye

For Arabic text, see below (see here for source).

بين الجزر والمد

حين الكلمات تصير على

ألسنة الكذب هلاميّه

أتداخل في ذاتي ، أتقلّص

أنكمش وأضمر

أتجنب كلذ هلاميات الدرب –

وكلّ لزوجته البشريه

أتراجع في ذعري أتحاشى

في الدرب مراوغة الزئبق

أتماسك حتى لا أزلق

وأثبّت قدمي في أرضٍ صابونيه

أقبض كفي لا أبسطها

وأعارف ملامسة الأشياء ، أعارف البسمات

الشوهاء ، وأكفر بالانسان الثعلب


لكني حين يعانقني

طفل ويلامس وجهي المتعب

الخدّ المخمل والكفّان الناعمتان

وأصابع زنبق

لم ينبت فيها مخلب

وتطلّ على قلبي عينان

كسماءٍ غسلتها في الفجر الرطب –

ملائكة الأنوار

يتمدد قلبي

يكبر قلبي

تهرب من قلبي المغلق

كل الأسوار

يتدفق فيه النهر القطبيّ-

وتنمو فيه الأشجار

يرجع من منفاه إلى

قلبي الواسع وجه الانسان

No responses yet

Retelling Tradition

Apr 06 2016

I have a new translated short story online at K1N here !

The author, Somaya Ramadan, and I discussed its publication ages ago. It’s nice to have it see the light of day at last. This story comes from a fun volume titled Qalat al-Rawiya / قالت الراوية / She Said, which consists of stories written by women in Cairo with the purpose of retelling tradition, reimagining canonized stories and telling new stories with traditional flavors and new ideas.

No responses yet

Love & Poetry

Feb 05 2016

One of the most inspiring couples I know of in contemporary Arabic literature are the writers Mourid Barghouti and Radwa Ashour.


So it was hard when Radwa Ashour passed away in 2014: I would miss her writing and her activism. And I could only imagine how much her family would miss her. One of her husband’s responses to her passage represents for me their constant attitude of gratitude and love:

I recently got the opportunity to read Barghouti’s collection of poetry, Midnight (or, my translation, Middle of the Night), available in Arabic-English parallel translation. It was another shared project for the couple, Barghouti writing the poetry and Ashour translating it to English. My comments on the collection are here. In this post, I just want to share my favorite excerpts of love poetry…

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.02.51 PM

Take me now!
Take me, no one but you, to the window of your morning
so that we can see from it together:
so I can see the roads as less arduous.
Girl, take me
that we may both become more disturbing to the institution of love
and more defiant
than I could bear to be
alone.                                       – My rendition ( p. 144)

On the value of human connection:

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 1.58.55 PM
Nothing equals one more hour with you. (p. 112)

No responses yet

New Year, Old Words

Jan 06 2016


Here in Rhode Island, we have had fairly warm weather. So many people receive it with trepidation, citing global warming. They worry what this means for the future. In other locations, people worry about an influx of refugees or an exodus of the most educated and skilled workers. Nearly everyone worries about violence, whether in schools or in terrorist attacks. At this time, when the Gregorian Calendar restarts, I find it important to recognize that in the midst of these concerns, there are many voices that express principles of courage, steadfastness, joy, and flexibility.

These words by Eleanor Roosevelt seem as apt today as they did in 1960…

“There is another fear problem which is growing more widespread and which, I think, we must do all we can to check at the source. Increasingly people are growing afraid of what is in store for the world. They wonder whether they should plan to go in for professions and build homes and bring up families.

‘There is so little security,’ they say. ‘We don’t know what to plan for.’

Well, what security did our first settlers have when they embarked on the Mayflower? Only what they could create for themselves with their own courage, their own activities, their own trust in themselves to be able to meet any situations–all unknown, all threatening–that they might encounter. It is the only way anyone can plan his life.

Today the world faces a great challenge: on one side a government preserved by fear, on the other a government of free men [people]. I haven’t ever believed that anything supported by fear can stand against freedom from fear. Surely we cannot be so stupid as to let ourselves become shackled by senseless fears. The result of that would be to have a system of fear imposed on us.

Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heros overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.”

Source Text: You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1960): 40-41.

Photo: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Indian Ocean Bali, 1991 (from here).

One response so far

Psalms in Arabic

Nov 17 2015

In response to the recent violence in Beirut and Paris, I offer this video featuring the music, philosophy, and singing of Sister Marie Keyrouz, a Lebanese Catholic nun who sings in Arabic. For more, see her website.

Also, I recommend this article: A Muslim Woman’s First Thoughts After the Paris Attacks by Hasnaa Mokhtar. She does an excellent job of showing why Muslims should not be held responsible for terrorist attacks. When mainstream American culture embraces Islamophobia, it holds Muslims hostage and endangers the humanity of all of us.

No responses yet

Older »