Study in Cairo, Egypt
Study in Cairo, EgyptThe pyramids of Giza, rising majestically out of the desert sands, bear immortal witness to Cairo's ancient eminence and its place in human history. As the seat of one of the world's oldest civilizations, Cairo is imbued with a sense of superhuman grandeur, as though it exists on the scale somehow beyond comprehension. The collision of old and new that is visible in many world capitals is overwhelmingly so in Cairo, a city of both eternal continuity and endless change.
Part of the reason for this is that “old” means something drastically different in Cairo from what it means in other cities. Where is the typical European capital can trace its roots back about 2000 years, Cairo (the ancient city of Memphis, to be precise) has been a lively center of commercial and political activity for more than twice that length of time. The modern city began to flourish under Roman rule, although for most of its ancient history it was overshadowed by the glorious city of Alexandria, some distance away on the Mediterranean coast. Nevertheless, it continued to serve a major strategic role, and in the 10th century when it was conquered by the Arabs, it became the capital of what would be known as the Kingdom of Egypt.
Under the Fatimid caliphate, Cairo saw the construction of one of its most important institutions: Al-Azhar University. Its founders, whose Islamic faith led them to believe that scholarship was one of the highest human callings, built their university into one of the finest institutions of learning in the world. Having celebrated its millennial anniversary in 1972, Al-Azhar is more than 100 years older than the oldest university in Europe, and is believed to be the 3rd oldest in the world. While it built its reputation around the study of Islamic ideas (and it remains the world's foremost institution of Sunni Islamic theology), it has gradually branched out, over time becoming a large and diverse center of learning that serves as both the conscience and the memory of the city of Cairo.
While all is our was once the most prominent educational institution in Egypt – and indeed in all of the Middle East – 2 schools were founded in the 20th century that are now even more prestigious in many fields. The 1st, Cairo University, holds an estimated 200,000 students and has several renowned programs, notably in medicine and law. The American University in Cairo, or AUC, is much smaller but no less well-known, and follows the American liberal arts model of higher education. It is particularly well known among foreign college students, who make up roughly 5% of the student body and typically come to study Arabic and/or Middle East Studies.