Cairo: Middle Eastern Civilizations

Students walk in a line on a sand dune as the sun goes down.

Program Term:


Language Requirement:



 Xhesika Bardhi

Application Deadline:


The University of Chicago’s Winter quarter civilizations program, “Middle Eastern Civilizations, Cairo” provides University of Chicago students with an opportunity to study Egyptian civilization and culture from pyramids to minarets, from antiquity to modernity. The rich history of Cairo will reveal itself to students through exposure to history, literature, and archaeology along the banks of the Nile.

    Participants will take a series of three civilizations courses devoted to Egypt’s evolving role in a wider regional context. As with the University’s other programs abroad, these courses will be taught by three different faculty members (in English) in intensive three-week segments. The precise topics of each year’s courses are determined by faculty interest and expertise. Students take a fourth course in Arabic language, offered at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. The beginning course is Egyptian colloquial Arabic. Classroom work is supplemented by excursions to sites of historical interest from pyramids at Giza to the Valley of the Kings and Karnak temple in Luxor to the modern bustling capital city of Cairo.

    Cairo program students will live together in shared, furnished apartments with full kitchens located in either the residential neighborhood of Dokki, on the western bank of the Nile across from downtown Cairo, or in Zamalek, a popular neighborhood located in the center of the city on an island in the middle of the Nile River. Exact locations of apartments will be provided to admitted students at a later date. The neighborhoods are centrally located and allow easy access to all parts of the city.

    Participants in the Cairo program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They take and receive credit for four courses: the three courses in the civilization sequence and the Arabic language course. The civilization sequence meets the College’s civilization requirement. Students who have already met this requirement may use these courses as electives. Their use, partial or total, in a program of study (major) must be approved by the undergraduate chair of the student’s respective major. The language course will normally count as an elective, and is developed in partnership with the Arabic instruction on campus. Participants will also join in language exchanges with local Cairo university students. Course titles, units of credit, and grades are placed on the College transcript.

    Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Cairo program during the 2024–2025 year are listed below:

    Winter tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Cairo program fee: $5,960

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • passport/visa fees
    • transportation on site
    • meals
    • course materials
    • personal entertainment and travel
    • communications (including cell phone usage)
    • health insurance and upfront payments for care
    • other miscellaneous expenses 

    Previous program participants report spending in the range of $100 to $150 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that while the cost of living in Cairo is relatively low, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

    Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

    The Cairo program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

    The program is designed for undergraduates in good academic and disciplinary standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that seriousness of intellectual purpose and engagement likely to yield the most from this opportunity. Because the civilization sequence is taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) on campus before the program begins. They can continue their study of MSA at intermediate and advanced levels.

    Because of the considerable demand for the Chicago civilization programs abroad, no student may participate in more than one of these programs. Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record and personal statement. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

    To discuss the Cairo: Middle Eastern Civilizations program and the possibility of participating, please contact Xhesika Bardhi.