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Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations (NELC)

To ensure the well-being of faculty, students and staff, the University of Pennsylvania will be closed at least until October 1, 2020, and subject to possible extension. If you need to reach us, please send an email. You may also call the Department and leave a message. We will return your call as soon as we can.

Please stay well and healthy.


We are celebrating with you in spirit!



Students wishing to declare the major should contact the adviser of the concentration they are interested in here. For questions or help, send an email to Undergraduate Coordinator, Kayowa Gibson-Tshilenge, at



The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) engages in the interdisciplinary humanistic study and teaching of the cultures of the Near East (often called the Middle East) as they express themselves in languages and texts, including both written and oral sources, as well as art, architecture, archaeology and material culture. These cultures encompass the geographic region that stretches from North Africa through the eastern Mediterranean, Arabia and Iran.


NELC's programs focus on the civilizations of Mesopotamia/Iraq, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Arabia, Anatolia/Turkey and Persia/Iran. We teach Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, Egyptian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Persian and Turkish, and other languages of the region, from ancient through modern.



The University of Pennsylvania values diversity and seeks talented students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. The University of Pennsylvania does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected class status in the administration of its admissions, financial aid, educational or athletic programs, or other University-administered programs or in its employment practices. Questions or complaints regarding this policy should be directed to the Executive Director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Suite 228, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106; or (215) 898-6993 (Voice)


NELC People

  • Standing Faculty
  • Lecturers
  • Emeritus Faculty
  • Administration & Staff
  • Alumni

    See News & Events for...

    Fall 2020 Language Placement Test Information

    Dr. Tajmah Assefi-Shirazi, long-time Persian lecturer, passes away.

    Mina Khalil, PhD candidate in Middle Eastern Literatures & Societies, named 2020 Dean's Scholar

    Distinguished scholar (and department alum) Dr. Zahi Hawass mounts his first extended lecture tour in the US

    NELC Phd students, Esraa Al-Shammari and Weston Bland named Grad Ben Talks finalists!

    Dedalus Quartet performs, January 25

    An intimate conversation with Israeli author, Judith Katzir

    PhD Candidate, Ari Gordon, named Director of US Jewish-Muslim relations at AJC

    $2 Million Grant awarded to Dr. Richard Zettler