Director's Note
Voltaire and the pigeons
Most recently I have imagined pigeon towers. It was about a month ago that I went up to the roof of CILAS to read Candide - an edition printed in the late 40s. The pages of the book were yellowed; it had sketched illustrations of Voltaire stumbling out of bed in the morning; and needless to say the story was to be told en français. I habitually - and this was still to become a habit - sat by the staircase and put my legs up. In alignement with the wall of the building I faced the resonating minaret of the Al-Ghuri mosque which was built at the turn of the 15th century, so I tell others.
As I sit on the roof of what is considered UNESCO cultural heritage, I smile at Voltaire; and it seems like he smiles back. I stretch my attention to listen to pigeons singing. They disappear and re-appear from behind the minaret - in formation, mind you. In this very location I become dislocated. It is as if joy tickles me internally as to make me laugh. My friend Hatim defined love as laughter that makes no sound. I become dislocated from time and space; I envision, paint, enjoy, love purely imaginatively. The thought of Voltaire stumbling out of bed and the motion of the birds in the distance synchronise. 
It is as if the pleasure I derive from a piece of classical writing nurtures ideas as they are dislocated in their creation. Increasingly I feel drawn to locating them given my proclivity to watch them in their creation; and to introduce them in writing. Structured writing is equivalent in nature to the aesthetics of the built environment. Writing becomes the art of re-directing the flow of one's inner voice towards justice as aesthetics. The artistic is the political. Our sense of justice must be imaginative, so I have come to believe. Capturing my visions and paintings in writing is to locate them in space to be read over time.
For now I am setting out to write about the dislocation brought about by stumbling Voltaire and the floating pigeons. Voltaire was a traveler, a correspondent par excellence. Funnily, excellencies in their day and age sent out pigeons as messengers. Voltaire was an observant and engaging satirist. According to Dryden the true end of satire is the amendment of vices, thereby indicating the path of virtue and wisdom - perhaps to remind human beings of what the divine law enjoins. Pigeons are directed and organised; pigeons towers shall emerge as ivory towers erode. 
To be continued in 2015.
With blessings,
Karim-Yassing Goessinger
Assistant Programme Director

Dear friends of CILAS,

My name is Shuruk Mohamed. I am a student at CILAS and I recently assumed the responsibility of Assistant Programme Director for the academic year 2014-2015. I basically get to take work off Karim-Yassin's shoulders and drink really good tea with the CILAS team. I spend four days a week at CILAS, which usually means creating Excel sheets on a not-so-friendly DELL notebook that runs on Ubuntu.

My responsibilities also include taking charge of the admissions. You will be hearing from me once a month as I will be putting together this newsletter. Please do not hesitate to get in touch. You can write to me on

Happy New Year!

All the best,


Student's Reflection
On the Core Curriculum by Hussein Tarek  
Core courses helped us in understanding and engaging with foundational ideas and prominent thinkers. Through co-creation of knowledge we were able to understand the relationship between the four fields of study, namely Arts, Culture, Social and Natural Sciences. It hasn't been an easy task, let me tell you.

Systematic study of different topics allowed me to see how everything is connected from the philosophy of science to media and art theories. During the past three months I have felt that we were developing constructive criticism of institutions and methodologies. In a way, that was the CILASian approach to creative inquiry. 

After completing the core curriculum I can claim that I am equipped with a different vision of reality. We are looking forward to continue this journey with CILAS as we prepare and enrol in different thematic courses. Next semester will help us reflect, assess and engage better with contemporary debates and our society. 
The Thematic Courses
APPLY NOW! The deadline has been extended to the 30th of December 2014.

 now inviting applications for the first round of thematic courses. Applicants are now invited to apply online. Thematic courses are of a duration of ten weeks with two class hours and at least four individual study hours per week. These courses are open to non-degree seeking students (open to everyone). To ensure that non-degree seekers meet the pre-requisites, applicants are asked to complete an application form. Classes are scheduled both in the morning from 10 am to noon and in the evening from 5 pm to 7 pm.
Co-Cooking with Pam
In the month of November, CILAS fellow Pam Labib invited students to her house for two collaborative culinary experiences. Students and Fellows were asked to bring one seasonal ingredient symbolising their life and their stories. Students attended tutorials and discussions with other CILAS Fellows, while some got creative with cooking these unique ingredients. Each student had to research one ecological, social and one cultural fact about their ingredient. With the help of their senses and taste buds, students went through a journey of understanding the complex politics surrounding what and how we eat. 

Pam also hosted two Yoga instructors, Dada and Kim for an afternoon of Yoga and conversations around neo-humanist philosophy.  

In the second co-cooking session, students were asked to try something different.This time students were asked to bring ingredients that they didn't like. Brainstorming on what to cook proved challenging without offending varied taste buds and determined dislikes. However the end results were flavoursome and delicious. Most of the students warmed up to the idea of having food with ingredients they disliked earlier. 

Here are some student's testimonials about their personal experience with the ingredients. 

Olfat: "We were asked to bring an item we didn't like (mine was okra). I was initially skeptical, thinking we would all end up not eating because we don't like the ingredients. Not only did the food turn out DELICIOUS, I actually enjoyed eating okra for the first time :) the team work in coming up
with random ideas in the kitchen was also loads of fun."
Wesal: "I got green pepper, I don’t like spicy food in general. The atmosphere was really nice. It was interesting to see how something can be created form a number of what looked like really different things. We all came in with ingredients that we didn't like and  at the end we managed to make something that we ate and really liked. For me this is a real success story. I could clearly see the concept of freedom through the process, starting with collectively choosing the ingredients that will be in the dishes all the way to eating.
Cinema on the Terrace

On Tuesday, November 11th., 2014 CILAS screened the critically acclaimed Turkish film Hayat Var (My Only Sunshine, 2008) directed by Rehan Erdem. This film is a captivating cinematic journey into the waters of Bosphorus through the life of a young girl. The story is about fourteen year old Hayat who lives with her father and bedridden grandfather. The film unravels different moments in the life of a young girl coming of age and living life on the margins.

Cinema on the Terrace is our monthly film club and we organise film screenings on our picturesque terrace overlooking Islamic Cairo. Watching Istanbul and the Bosphorus on our terrace, overlooking the city of a thousand minarets was magical!

The Museum of Modern Art

On Tuesday, November 18th., 2014 CILAS organized a visit to the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art, located in premises of Cairo Opera House.

Museum of Egyptian Modern Art hosts a vast collection of 20th and 21st century Egyptian sculptures and art work. Our group consisted of CILAS students and art enthusiasts from different institutions. Students were hosted by Dr. Doha Ahmed, Director of Museum of Egyptian Modern Art. 

Slow Food
This month CILAS had the opportunity to become one of the 10,000 Food Gardens in Africa - a project initiated by the Slow Food Network. Under the guidance of Diego Giuffrè (Slow Food Country Coordinator), CILASians were introduced to basic concepts and techniques of urban gardening/farming. The project aims to establish a network of community gardens all over Africa. It turns out all urban gardening requires is an an extra 10 minutes per day which, as Diego pointed out, will keep our body and spirit intact. Starting a garden is also a good way of managing waste creatively. This project will resume in full swing with the opening of CILAS for the second trimester in January 2015.
Halaqa: Storytelling
On December 16th, 2014, CILAS organised an evening of storytelling and Halaqa with Zakaria el Houbba.

Zakaria’s storytelling introduced us to the rich sufi traditions of Halaqa, from the Maghreb. Through his stories we were able to understand the act of ‘telling’ and what it means to 'listen’. The second part of the evening was about finding ones own word and exploring a Sufi exercise in storytelling and listening.

Zakaria Ramadan El Houbba, studied Philosophy in Leuven and Istanbul. He met a storyteller in Spain who brought him back to Maghrib. Here he explored the hidden world of storytelling that makes the essence of sufism in Morocco. Most recently, Zakaria landed in the eastern desert of concrete and riding metals called Cairo.

This event marked an end to a successful first trimester and was a celebration for the new year that is to arrive.
CILAS is a registered non-profit organisation and relies on contributions to its budget. Please click the 'Support CILAS!' tab below if you wish to make a much appreciated contribution. More information? Drop a line!
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