Within the framework of the Wafedin Scholarship program which is funded by the Egyptian government and administrated by the DAAD, among the last 3 months the German Students has visited the following places, the German Archeological Institute (DAI), the Arab League premises and Tunis Village in Fayoum.

1. The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) Visit

On Monday, 29th of February 2016 the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) organized a visit to in Cairo for the German Wafedin to the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). The DAI is a research institution under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany. In Egypt it works in cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquities on archaeological projects concerning the Egyptian history of all eras, from prehistory to modernity.  The DAI Cairo maintains the second-largest archaeology library in Egypt as well as important archives and its own editorial office.

Ms. Isolde Lehnert, qualified diploma librarian at the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, welcomed the participants with an informative introduction about the history of the institute. The inventory is founded on the collection of Egyptologist Ludwig Keimer (1892-1957), which the DAI acquired in 1957.

Ms Lehnert then took the students on a tour through the different sections of the library, explaining their organizational structure with labels as well as the DAI‘s online search system. The ZENON catalogue facilitate  not only the process of searching a book among the currently 20.000 available books in Cairo but also provides access to all DAI-library books worldwide.

 2. The Arab League Visit

On 16th February 2016, a group of German students had the chance to visit the League of Arab States and get an inside view of the mechanisms and tasks of this institution. An introduction was given by Mrs. Samia Bibars, head of the Department for Culture and Dialogue at the Arab League.

The Arab League was established in 1945, the long floors and high ceilings, decorated with colorful mosaic, impressed its visitors by its elegance. As was mentioned in the introductory session, the Arab League aims to promote the relations between the 22 member states and to enhance their common interests and welfare. Decisions were used to be decided by consensus; this process was changed to two-thirds majority.

Mrs. Samia Bibars gave additional information about her Department of Culture Dialogue. One of the topics they are working on is to spread a positive image of the Arab World. Within this goal they are following several strategies. Emphasizing the importance of multiculturalism and pointing out that it is enriching the societies and especially preventing conflicts. Mrs. Bibars also mentioned the aim of guaranteeing freedom of opinions and therefore the importance of interfacing a dialogue with different religions, cultures etc. She summed up her introduction with the words that her department’s work aims to “build bridges between civilizations”.

Moreover, Dr. Kamal Hassan, from Azhar University, gave the students information about the history of Al-Azhar and its’ role as the most ancient religious institution in the world. Dr. Kamal Hassan discussed one of the important topics worldwide which is the challenge of combating the ideology of extremest groups, such as Daesh. Here, he referred to the interfaith dialogue initiative made by Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar called “House of Egyptian Family”. It comprises Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church, Orthodox Church, the Coptic Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church and the Anglican Episcopal Church. The initiative pursue several aims, such as focusing on the common grounds between Muslims and Christians but also to understand differences and therefore respecting the right of having opposite opinions.

After these two rich informative lectures, the students got a guided tour through the huge building. They visited the plenary hall, had a look inside the internal library and had a last glance into the garden before being accompanied out, back to Tahrir Square’s soundscape.

3. One day trip to Fayoum

On 21st January 2016, the DAAD invited the German scholarship holders to a day trip to Fayoum. During the visit the students had the possibility to get to know more of the Hellenistic period in this area and to visit the Ptolemaic Temple.

On arrival in Tunis village, located in far western corner of Fayoum, the doors of Magdy Sidhom’s villa stood open to enjoy some tea and coffee in the garden. After taking a deep breath of fresh countryside air, Prof. Cornelia Römer, expert of papyrology and DAAD-lecturer at Ain Shams University, held a short presentation summing up the engineering capabilities of the Greeks who came to the Fayoum in the 1st century BC and laid the foundation of the still functioning irrigation system of this 70 x 60 km wide area. By analyzing excavation findings and reading ancient papyri, Prof. Römer also revealed a lot of interesting details about the formation of a multi-cultural society in the Fayoum were Greek and Egyptian Culture mixed together in private but also in business relations.

Carrying new knowledge and idea about the history of this place, the group visited the Ptolemaic Temple of the ancient village of Dionysias, which had around 1000 tax-paying inhabitants at this time . Blue sky, oasis bordered by desert over the remains of the Ptolemaic and Roman settlement, the temple’s roof gave a stunning overview of the area. Walking through the temple, Prof. Cornelia Römer gave information about its architecture and religious meaning for the Greeks, who had built this temple honoring the rich Egyptian afterlife culture.

After lunch in Tunis village, well satisfied, the group explored the village and visited the local pottery school, where a variety of handmade tableware is on display for sale. Well equipped with nice souvenirs the group set off back to crowded Cairo. This trip was a nice opportunity to get a new impression of Egypt’s diversity next to the metropolitan areas of Cairo.