Mar 15, 2021


Arabic Papyri are highly neglected in international scholarship. The reason is that most of the objects are not accessible. They are stored in Egypt in the Islamic Museum, in the National Library or in individual American (Ann Arbor) or European Collections (Vienna, Berlin). The aim of this project was to contribute to the chances of future research on Arabic papyri worldwide. In this study, 100 papyri were digitalized and made available to the academic and general community for future research. With this tandem project, the Egyptologist and Papyrus expert Verena Lepper (Berlin) and the Arabic Philology Expert Bilal Orfali (Beirut) focused on accessing ancient Arabic papyri for future research. Papyrology is a wide field of studies, it comprises a large variety of scripts and languages used or spoken in Ancient Egypt, from Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Demotic, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Coptic, up to Arabic. Arabic is the youngest language to be written on papyri. The papyri are kept in a variety of institutions in Egypt, Europe and the US. The Papyrus Collection of the Egyptian Museum Berlin comprises 1000 Arabic Papyri, of which only a small part is deciphered and published. As a feasibility study, these papyri could bemade accessible to the academic and general world community through this project. In order to better understand the beginning of Islam in Egypt and the culture and history of the first centuries of Islamic Egypt. The field of Arabic Papyrology is very small. In March 2018, the International Arabic Papyrology Congress was hosted in Berlin at the Egyptian Museum, the Humboldt University, the Free University and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. As a result of this congress, it became clear that there is a strong need for the digitalization of Arabic papyri worldwide. Following this call, in collaboration with several partners, the Tandem-partners conducted this project for the digitization of the Berlin papyri. T he Tandam team sought cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquity in Egypt (Ahmed Kamal, head of Department of Arabic papyri) in order to discuss documentation standards. The international centers of Arabic Papyrology (Leiden, Munich and Paris) incl. Sebastian Metz were also involved. In addition, digitization has been made and shall be made a standard for all papyrus studies. Therefore, the expertise from the academic field of the Digital Humanities was therefore an important component of the project.

Oct 15, 2020

Series Brings Alive Classical Arabic Texts for Young Readers

For some teens, classical Arabic literature has a stiff and forbidding reputation. The teen protagonist in Huda El Shuwa’s young-adult novel Dragon of Bethlehem dreads Arabic class, and particularly pre-modern Arabic poetry. But then he meets a witty dragon who gives him a new way of looking at these fifteen-hundred-year-old poems. Freed from their traditional classroom context, the poems become something new. With the new Young Readers series from the New York University Press’s Library of Arabic Literature (LAL), the scholars Enass Khansa and Bilal Orfali are crafting something like this secret dragon. The series, which is releasing its third classic book this month, reframes pre-modern texts so that they can take wing in the classroom and beyond. “Classical Arabic literature is associated with many things,” Khansa said over a Zoom interview. “But it’s not associated with being a space for creative and experimental thinking. I think the main idea, for both of us, is that this [book series] is experimental. That’s why we’re medievalists—because there is richness and potential.”

Feb 28, 2020

New Series of the Library of Arabic Literature

This new series of the Library of Arabic Literature, a project of NYU-AD Institute, targets the youth and general readers. It aims to illustrate Arabic classics, making them accessible to general readers. For how do we understand texts written more than 1000 years ago? How can we visually reformulate the aesthetic and performatives questions in such texts? The selected texts include capturing narratives, inquiring questions, rhetorical dialogues, imaginative geography. They offer a vital opportunity to experience classical heritage and incite creativeness at the personal and epistemological levels. In this new series we offer a rich piece of a glorious Arabic heritage, in hope it will remain part of our cultural memory and consciousness.

Nov 28, 2019

The Place of Humanities in Research, Education and Society: An Arab-German Dialogue

Digitization and artificial intelligence, globalization, agriculture and sustainable resource production in times of climate change, genome editing and high-tech medicine, are highly topical issues of STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math). These technological and ecological transformations are increasingly shaping our everyday lives, and they determine how we will live in the future. Hence, new challenges for society arise, requiring philosophers, historians, literary scholars, and artists to provide us the essential knowledge and a variety of perspectives to reflect on social change, our ethical values, and norms: the humanities help us make meaning of the future world and define our place in it. The international AGYA conference aimed at exploring the potential and challenges of the humanities, engaging Arab and German key players in a multilateral dialogue.

Oct 14, 2019

AGYA Book Launch Event 'Insatiable Appetite' and Inauguration of AGYA Alumni

The book launch of ‘Insatiable Appetite: Food as Cultural Signifier in the Middle East and Beyond’ on 14 October at the American University of Beirut was the public closing event of AGYA´s Annual Conference in Beirut 2019. The volume is the result of a collaboration between AGYA Alumni Prof. Dr. Julia Hauser (University of Kassel, Germany), Prof. Dr. Bilal Orfali (American University of Beirut, Lebanon) and Dr. Kirill Dmitriev (University of St. Andrews, U.K.), and was published by Brill in fall 2019. The editors Julia Hauser and Bilal Orfali presented the freshly released book and discussed its contents with Nawal Nasrallah, book author and food blogger, and Prof. Dr. Rebecca Earle (University of Warwick, UK). In addition, Dr. Brigitte Caland (American University of Beirut, Lebanon) gave a keynote lecture on 'Hummus, the International Life of an Indigenous Dish', accompanied by a tasting of different hummus recipes. In his welcome address, Prof. Dr. Mohamed Harajli, provost of the American University of Beirut, emphasized the 'transformative collaborations that can arise from partnerships such as fostered by AGYA that are intercontinental, transdisciplinary, and multicultural'. Furthermore, he accentuated on the importance of arts and humanities as part of the university curriculum, as they enable students to become better problem-solvers and communicators and finished his speech stating that the combination of humanities, technology, and purpose-based education promotes students with profound knowledge and diverse skills and provides lifelong learning.

Jul 30, 2019

Exhibition ‘Cinderella, Sindbad & Sinuhe‘ in Berlin: A Story of Success

Tales and stories are central to the cultural heritage of mankind: through creative interactions between people in different places at different times, stories traverse generations. In so doing, they can connect the past with the present and link what lies in the distance with what is close at hand. Tales and stories can shape the identity and self-image of individual people and entire communities. The exhibition ‘Cinderella, Sindbad & Sinuhe: Arab-German Storytelling Traditions’ at the Neues Museum in Berlin explored how some of the best known tales from both Arab and German – and wider Western – cultures developed from common roots, splitting over the centuries to reflect the societies that adopted them. More than 300.000 people came to visit the exhibition in Berlin and to profit from the diverse accompanying program. ‘Storytelling is universal and can be regarded as inherent to human nature’, explains Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper, AGYA Principal Investigator and curator at the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection Berlin. ‘With this exhibition we wanted to emphasize exchange processes, shared ideas, and the transfer of thoughts and concepts between the Arab world and Germany.’ Accompanying lectures by renowned experts like Prof. Dr. Beatrice Gründler and AGYA member Prof. Dr. Bilal Orfali provided deeper insights into research topics such as ‘Kalila wa Dimna: A unique work of world literature’ or ‘Two Picaresque Tales and a Yellow Cow - Hamadhānī’s Maqāma of Mosul’.