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Academic Retreat with students from Dutch Universities and Al-Azhar

For the students of our Dutch institutions, the Netherlands Embassy supported an ‘academic retreat’ at hotel Stella de Mare in Ayn Sukhna. During this two-day retreat, our students discussed with students of al-Azhar University in Cairo on various topics. It was an open exchange of ideas and feedback from our students and also of Azhar students has been very positive. We look forward to organizing similar meetings with students of al-Azhar University in the future and also to further cooperate with the Netherlands Embassy in such future events.

November 16-18,  the PD Hub, together with the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC) and Azhar University organized an Academic Retreat with students from Dutch Universities and Al-Azhar University. Enclosed you will find a written report of the event and below there is a link to a short video report of the event. All three parties involved including the students considered the dialogue successful. It resulted in sharing knowledge, breaking stereotypes and developing networks among participants whom will become the new generation of academics and imams.

As a result, in cooperation with Al-Azhar, we are developing a follow up event for students and academics in 2018. Last week, the PD Hub and NVIC met with the president of Al-Azhar University who expressed willingness to extent cooperation in the field of education, research, and publications as well. All the proposals for the new student retreat and the academics’ seminar from our side were welcomed by Al-Azhar University and were received in an open and helpful atmosphere. Dr. Ruud Peters, a prominent Dutch scholar in Islamic Law, joined our meeting and he noted that the cooperation was remarkably harmonious.

Below you will find a few quote’s by the retreat participants which reflects the expectations and the results the retreat produced:

‘Knowing each other better’. ‘Connecting cultures and experiences’. ‘Building friendships’. ‘Sharing information and ideas’. These were some of the expectations for the weekend the students expressed during the opening.

“We are here to connect,” says Alaa, medicine student at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. “They learn how we think and we learn how they think.”

“Words can’t precisely describe my excitement towards this event. It is unusual for me to have such a number of friends in such a very short time. Each one there was enough to make my day. By the way, when I talk about you I use the term ‘friends’. This was an unforgettable experience. These sessions along with the side talks have dramatically changed my perspective towards the other and contributed to how I think to some extent. The benefits I received were much more than what I had expected. This event had an impact on my personality; I have become more passionate to know and discover the other.

 Travelling has become one of my favorite hobbies. Thank you so much.” (Azhar student).

“I found the trip to Ayn Sokhna a very nice opportunity for students of different backgrounds and standpoints to connect and share their thoughts. I especially loved the last exercise by Ifdal and the Azhari professor since we felt like one group.” (Dutch student).

“I think it was very useful and interesting for all of all. These kind of intercultural meetings are of course very important, I believe it is how a peaceful society is built. Thank you again!” (Dutch student).

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