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A word from our Director

Dear friends of the NVIC

We are already well into the second half of our spring semester. After finalizing her travels and the half semester with her students of Egyptology, our assistant director Marleen De Meyer adapted the exhibition on 150 years of Belgian royal visits to Egypt, that had stood in the Egyptian Museum earlier, to fit into the hall of our institute. We are grateful to the Belgian embassy for their support in realizing this event.

Following the opening of the royal visits exhibition at our institute, Marleen also prepared the temporary exhibition "Life in Death: The Middle Kingdom at Deir el-Bersha" at the Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square, which was opened by the Minister of Antiquities, H.E. prof. Dr Khaled el-Anany, and the Belgian ambassador, H.E. Sibille de Cartier d’Yves.

After this opening, Marleen was free to join her excavations at Deir el-Bersha, of which she is also assistant director. Prof. Dr Harco Willems, director of this mission, was then already there to lead another season, for which we could fortunately get permission, not only from the Ministry itself, but also from the security organisations.

At the same time, the mission at Saqqara of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, led by Dr Lara Weiss, and Museo Egizio in Turin, led by Dr Christian Greco, finished their successful season last week. In this last week, members of our staff also had the pleasure of being shown around the Saqqara site by the former director of this Dutch mission, prof. Dr Maarten Raven.
In the meantime at the institute, we continued the semester for our 41 students of Arabic/Islam and Middle East Studies. In the morning of April 19th these students went on a field trip to the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. Here, our students had the chance to critically examine- and gain knowledge about the Dutch and Egyptian collections of Islamic art. They were guided around the new exhibition The Hejaz and the holy cities: traces of a colorful past. This photo-exhibition was organized by Baukje Dijkstra, PD Hub for the MENA region of the Netherlands embassy in Cairo in collaboration with the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. The curation and research for the exhibition was conducted by Dr Luitgard Mols in cooperation with Dr Arnoud Vrolijk from Leiden University Library. Dr Vrolijk gave a talk during the opening of the photo-exhibition, inaugurated by H.E. Ambassador Laurens Westhoff who was accompanied by Dr Mohammed Abd al-Latif and representatives of the Ministry of Antiquities.

On display are various photographs, documents and manuscripts from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Western Arabian Peninsula. These portray the contemporary religious life of the cities Mekka, Medina and Jeddah. The exhibition predominantly consist of ethnographic objects collected by Dutch orientalist scholars and diplomatic consuls who were responsible for supervising Hajj pilgrims traveling from Indonesia to Mecca. One of the prime collectors was Islam scholar Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. The collections eventually ended up in the University Library Leiden and Museum van Volkenkunde, also in Leiden.

In other news, our librarian Tine Lavent developed a nice ‘media offensive’ to advertise the activities of our library (watch the video here) and we had our weekly lectures on Thursdays and film evenings on Sundays. The final lecture of the season will be on 10 May. Contrary to our tradition, we shall not end the lecture season by serving koshari on the roof of our institute, but we shall be serving drinks to end the season.
Together with Baukje Dijkstra (Public Diplomacy) of the Netherlands Embassy in Cairo, and in cooperation with prof. Dr Amr Ryad of KU Leuven, our institute organized a two-day meeting of 8 prominent academics of Islam Studies from the Netherlands and 11 prominent academics from the Azhar University to discuss and discover common ground in their different approaches to the study of Islam, from the ‘outside’ and from the ‘inside’ (see here). The idea was to bring these specialists into contact with each other and let them talk with each other, as opposed to about each other only. The day after the meeting, prof. (em.) Dr Ruud Peters of Amsterdam University read a lecture at the Azhar University, which was very well attended.
Earlier this year, we received an “inception mission” from the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam. Two of their professors came to Egypt to investigate the needs and wishes of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities in the fields of ‘museology’ and ‘site management’. In the last week of April, three of Reinwardt’s training staff traveled to Egypt to teach the first of two courses to 25 employees of the Ministry of Antiquities. The venue was New Hermopolis near Mallawy in Upper Egypt. After the summer, the second course will be organized. The courses are made possible by the generous support of the cultural section of the Netherlands Embassy in Cairo, to whom we are grateful.
We are looking forward to quite a few of our activities over the coming months. We will be teaching a course “Introduction to Egyptology” (see here), a beginner’s course of Modern Standard Arabic and Spoken Egyptian Arabic (see here), evening classes of Egyptian Spoken Arabic (see here), and a course in TAFL - Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (see here). For our students from Zürich, Switzerland, whom we teach this semester on Skype as well, we shall organize a summer course.
In mid April, we were joined by our new intern Luca Bruls, who will stay with us for the coming four months (for details, please see here). We look forward to working with Luca.
Please keep following us on our Facebook page, where we shall be posting latest developments.
Best regards,
Rudolf de Jong
Director of the NVIC

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