Westmont in Cairo: Spring 2018

Applications are open Friday Feb 10, 2017 and close end of Monday March 6.


You can debate with your roommate whether Islam poses a global threat - or you can go to the heart of the Islamic world and find out. You can wonder whether people in the Middle East want to live in a democracy - or you can ask them. You can pray for peace in Israel and Palestine - or you can also find out how to work for peace.


During this semester you will live in Cairo, a developing world megalopolis, pulsating with energy, people and life. Heart of the Arab world, Cairo is, in the words of the medieval traveler Ibn Battuta, um al dunya, mother of the world.

You will be encouraged to experience another culture from the inside by studying Arabic, navigating your way around the city, and interacting with Egyptians on a daily basis. You will develop relationships with your neighbors and Egyptian university students. You will, for a season, become an urban person and learn to be comfortable negotiating a foreign metropolitan landscape.

You will also experience what it means to live in community in a new way. Removed from familiar social, relational, and religious support systems, all the while being confronted with some of the most challenging issues facing the world today, you will need to rely on each other.



The program will be centered in Cairo, and will give you an opportunity to feel located in one place – it is not a ‘travel semester’. We will spend time at an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox retreat center to give you some rest and recuperation and a sense of Egypt outside Cairo.

During the last five weeks of the semester you will visit Jordan for twelve days, and then the final act of the semester will be 24 days in Israel/Palestine.

During this time you will visit sites of Biblical and early Christian importance and spend Holy Week and Easter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

You will also be an eye witness to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which you will hear about from at least 25 perspectives, as you meet with politicians, preachers, academics, and activists on both sides.


January 6: Arrival & Orientation

Weeks 1-10: Cairo

Weeks 11-12: Jordan

Weeks 13-15: Israel/Palestine

April 25, 2018: Program Ends


While all classes will be taught or supervised by Westmont faculty Heather Keaney and Jim Wright, a significant amount of our learning will come from Egyptian, Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian speakers with whom we work during our time in their respective countries.

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In the process of learning about Egypt and the Middle East you will learn far more about American society than you could ever do if you had stayed at home. You will study how people in the countries that we visit are struggling to find a balance between rooted cultural authenticity and coherent national identity on the one hand and a rapidly changing and globalizing culture on the other.

You will earn 16 credits and meet five GE Requirements and several major/minor credits.


Cross and Crescent in the Middle East
4 units (Satisfies GE: Thinking Historically, major/minor credit in History or Religious Studies)

You and your fellow students will study the historical, textual, and cultural foundations of Islam and then compare these with the living reality of Egyptian, Jordanian, and Palestinian societies. You will spend most of the semester in Egypt, a country that is 85% Muslim and, in many eyes, the center of Sunni Islam. You will also visit Palestine and Jordan, two other majority Muslim countries, to give you a broader feel for Islam in practice.

You and your fellow students will also engage with the current Egyptian church, and learn of its past. You will study the evolution of Christianity from an opposition movement to the religion of the empire, and thence to protected, subordinate, and marginalized minority. Attention will be given to the interaction between theological developments and cultural and political developments. You will learn more about the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Through meeting with different Christians living in the Middle East today you will be challenged to consider afresh what it means to be a part of the global body of Christ.

Modern Egypt
4 units (Satisfies GE: Understanding Society and satisfies GE Communicating Cross Culturally)

You and your fellow students will study the modern history of Egypt: its transition from a Kingdom occupied by Britain into an independent nation state. You will study what it means to be a modern nation, and how a nation may or may not make room for the “other” while forging a coherent unity.

Change and Conflict in the Modern Middle East
4 units (Satisfies GE: Thinking Globally, major/minor credit Political Science and major/minor credit History)

You and your fellow students will study some of the dramatic political changes in the Middle East which have taken place since 2011 and will consider if the “Arab Spring" is or is not an appropriate name for these changes. You will study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of both Israelis and Palestinians. We will ask together where we can find hope for peace, what we can learn about the struggle for influence and resources in the region, and what this may mean for us as Americans and Christians.

Arabic language
(Satisfies GE: Foreign language)

You will study Arabic throughout our time in Cairo, both in a formal class room setting and through daily opportunities to practice.

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Applications are open for submission Friday February 10 and close Monday March 6, 2017.


The cost of the program will be standard Westmont tuition, fees, room and board. There will be no program fee but you will be responsible for the cost of round trip airfare from the USA to Egypt.


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PROFESSOR HEATHER KEANEY is an alum of Westmont who spent twelve years between 1999 and 2011 living and teaching in Cairo at the American University in Cairo and at the CCCU’s Middle East Studies Program (MESP). Professor Keaney is enthusiastic about helping students place the events that make headlines in the Middle East within their historical and cultural context in order to reveal their human dimension. She hopes students will come to share some of her love and passion for the place and its people.

JIM WRIGHT was born in Devon, England, which no doubt explains his difficulties with the American language. After studying law at Cambridge University he worked for a multi-national corporate law firm in London and Dubai. He left this to study cross-cultural and Biblical theology in the UK before arriving in Egypt in 1993. He spent 18 years in Egypt, initially studying Arabic and then working as a corporate lawyer. His life in the region convinced Jim of the strategic importance of the Middle East. His interaction with students from the Middle East Studies Program of the CCCU over the years convinced him of the strategic importance of American Christian college students for everything from regime change to climate change. Jim left the law and joined Westmont in 2011 in order to align these two convictions.

Heather and Jim lead the Westmont in Istanbul program on all three of its previous iterations.


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Maya (2017) is currently pursuing a BA in Religious Studies with a special interest in Biblical history. She is passionate about bridging the gap between theological academia and every-day faith. Outside her studies she loves good art, bad films, and Bible jokes. Maya is also a devoted fan of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team and she has a dependent relationship with her coffee maker.

Cairo fJordan (2018) is currently pursuing a BA in History with an International Studies emphasis in the Middle East. He has served on Student Government and has been involved with Westmont extracurriculars ranging widely from the Horizon (school newspaper) to Spring Sing. Outside of his studies, Jordan is a music enthusiast and an avid sports fan, using both passions to better understand cultural bridges and divides.

Maya and Jordan are both alumni of the last Istanbul program and will be working with Heather and Jim to co-lead in 2018.