Center News

MEC Administrative Assistant James Ryan makes semi-regular visits to area schools to guest lecture on topics related to the Middle East. On December 18, visited Central Bucks High School West to discuss the Islamic Republic of Iran to a 12th grade AP Comparative Government Class. On Friday November 7, he visited Central Buck High School South to guest lecture in the 12th Grade International Relations classes. Mr. Ryan addressed the political and social problems of Iran and Iraq, both from the American and Middle Eastern Perspective. He also addressed the Sunni-Shi'i divide, helping the students better to undersand exactly what role religion plays in the ethnic and social cleavages in the region. International Relations is part of the standard Social Studies Curriculum for 12th graders in Central Bucks Schools and has significantly increased focus on the Middle East in recent years. The Middle East Center looks forward to greater participation in the curriculum, with the students and with the faculty in this and other area school districts.

Dance Workshop for 7th Graders

One of the Center's fellows and dance instructor Habiba held two workshops at the Independence Charter School on December 17th and 18th, 2008. The two workshops were part of the seventh grade level Arabic language and culture training and they focused on the traditional dance of Egypt. The goal of the workshop was to teach students how to dance in the context of an Egyptian village festival. Some of the topics discussed in the festival setting included language, clothing, agriculture, climate, customs, henna, music, and dance.

Drumming Workshops for Beginning and Intermediate Students, 3rd-12th grades (Other workshops for adults possible)

Ten Saturday workshops from September through December were held at the Rotunda (4012 Walnut St., Philadelphia) by Lebanese-American Master Percussionist Joseph Tayoun. The workshops ran from 12:45-1:45 PM for beginners, and from 1:50-2:50 PM for intermediate, and focused on Middle Eastern rhythms and techniques. Future programs of this sort are likely. For more information, call Al-Bustan at (267) 809-3668. You can also send them email. Some scholarships are available. If you are interested in adult percussion workshops, let them know, as they are considering opening an adult section on Saturdays from 3-4 PM.


Arabic and Drama Workshops for 3rd-5th Graders

Ten Saturday workshops from September through December were held at the Rotunda (4012 Walnut St., Philadelphia) by Nehad Khader and Nahid Elgadi. The workshops ran from 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM, and focused on study of conversational and written Arabic, integrated with acting and writing an Arab fairy tale, ending with a performance-in-progress. For more information, call Al-Bustan at (267) 809-3668. You can also send them email. Some scholarships are available.

The Middle East Center congratulates NELC Professor Joseph E. Lowry on his promotion to Associate Professor. Professor Lowry is the author of Early Islamic Legal Theory: The Risala of Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi'i, which was published in 2007 by Brill. His book presents a comprehensive reinterpretation of the Risala, the earliest preserved work of Islamic legal theory.

The Middle East Center would like to congratulate Professor Roger Allen, Chair of the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations department, on being elected the President of the Middle East Studies Association. Professor Allen was elected at the 2008 MESA Conference in Washington, D.C., and will assume his role beginning in November 2009 and ending at the 2010 conference in San Diego, CA. This position has been held by such esteemed scholars as Barbara Stowasser, Philip S. Khoury and John Esposito. It is a very prestigious honor that brings us at the Middle East Center and the Penn community a special source of pride.

Al-Bustan's percussion instruction and music appreciation program, featuring Simon Shaheen

On November 19, 2008, the Middle East Center, in partnership with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, co-sponsored a teacher's workshop with internationally renowned 'ud and violin virtuoso Simon Shaheen. The workshop was held from 1-3 PM at the Kimmel Center at 260 S. Broad St. This event was followed by a series of master workshops with several youth ensembles in January 2009. For more information on Al-Bustan's music program, click here to visit their website.

Professor Ian Lustick's article "Abandoning the Iron Wall:  Israel and the Middle Eastern Muck" which he published in Middle East Policy (September 2008) has generated considerable discussion in policy circles. His recent book, Exile and Return:  Predicaments of Palestinians and Jews, which he edited with Ann Lesch, has now been issued in paperback by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

PaCIE Conference - on Oct. 2-4, 2008, the Middle East Center co-sponsored the Pennsylvania Council for International Education (PaCIE) annual conference in State College PA.  The center's staff attended and participated in panels on the Globalizing the K-12 Classroom and Building an International Education.  PaCIE has provided vital professional development and networking opportunities to the state's international educators and has been a constant voice to advocate for international education in the Commonwealth for 40 years. For more information please visit

“City Year Training Day " at The Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus

On September 23, 2008, the Middle East Center, in partnership with three other National Resource Centers at Penn (African Studies Center, Center for East Asian Studies, and South Asian Studies Center) offered a teacher's training day for 230 City Year staff members. The training focused on the significance of global education and its impact on solidarity. The training also provided members with resources to use in their own classrooms and after-school programs. This half-day program was partially funded by the Schol of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The New Mediterranean" at Dickinson College

The Middle East Center continues to expand its circle of outreach partners in the state of Pennsylvania.  In April 2008, the Center co-sponsored Dickinson College’s Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues a day-long symposium on “The New Mediterranean.”  This special event addressed new ways of understanding diaspora identity, cultural, political boundaries and exchanges between Europe and North Africa through critical discussions and performances by writers, cultural critics, and musicians. The discussions concluded with an improvisational and participatory Culture Jam and concert by the world music and Afro-Nord group, Cafe Mira. Click here for more information.