Months before Egypt erupted in revolution early in 2011, a group of faculty at Missouri Southern State University had selected the Land of the Pharaohs as the country of emphasis for the Fall 2011 semester. Since initiating the themed semesters in 1997, MSSU had not focused on any of the 22 countries that make up the Arab World.
Egypt, the most populous Arab nation with 84.5 million residents, was chosen for its ancient past and its role in the world today. From the Great Sphinx to the pyramids, from the Nile to Cleopatra, Egypt is steeped in history and legend. Bordering on the Mediterranean Sea and the Rea Sea in northeastern Africa, Egypt is about three times the size of New Mexico. The Nile, of course, is the longest river in the world at 4,184 miles (the Amazon is close second).
The 18-day revolution earlier this year, which focused the world’s attention on this pivotal country, reinforced MSSU’s decision to devote a semester of extensive study to this major power broker in the Middle East.
Egypt, like the rest of the Arab Middle East, has been rocked by popular upheaval and calls for democratic rule. In February 2011 millions of people camped out in downtown Cairo toppled the Mubarak regime that had ruled Egypt for 30 years. What will the future hold for a country ruled, in the wake of a reconstructed political system, by the military? What lessons, positive and negative, might Egyptians learn from an earlier revolution led by military officers in the 1950s, who claimed to speak on behalf of the nation and its desires for massive political and social reform?
The Fall 2011 Egypt Semester will shed some light on these questions as well as pay tribute to the country’s glorious past and cultural heritage through guest speakers, readings, concerts, and films. We’ll even sample some of the centuries-old Egyptian cuisine.