STUDYING IN EGYPT by Julia Barth Knowles


On December 20, 2003, I disembarked from an airplane and arrived in Kuwait City. My first trip to the Middle East, I stayed for a month and, from the moment I woke up to the Athan resounding from the nearby mosque, I was gripped with fascination for a life very different from my own. By 2005, I became enrolled in the Maxwell School’s MA-IR program with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa, and, a year later, I moved to Cairo, Egypt where I am studying Arabic and taking advantage of the in- valuable learning opportunities in Cairo’s stimulating cultural environment. Although Kuwait and Egypt are quite different, I chose to study in Egypt because I felt it incorporated a broader spectrum of the region’s people with its ethnic and economic diversity.

Upon arriving in Egypt, I received a warm welcome from the family of a good friend and was invited to participate in their daily lives: sharing their food, learning about the Quran, and even attending a traditional engage- ment ceremony. A few weeks later, I began an internship at the Ibn Khal- dun Center and had the honor of meeting renowned human rights activist, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim. This past January, I participated in a delegation with Dr. Saad Eddin to Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel where we met with political figures such as President Lahoud, Speaker of the House Berri, leaders of Hizbollah, President Abbas, and officials of Hamas. In Lebanon, I witnessed the devastation wrought by the war with Israel, en- countering a tent city in downtown Beirut. Overall, my experience living in Egypt has added an inconceivable depth to my understanding of a vibrant region and its people.