International Visitors and Events

The Arabic program at CMC has invited a variety of special guests from all around the country and the world. The program concentrates on creating opportunity for the students to learn more about the Arabic culture by ensuring that every guest can shed light on a different facet of life in the Arab Middle East. All activities and guests that have been hosted by the Arabic program are relevant to the continuation of the students’ learning. These workshops introduced the students to the beauty and richness of the Arabic language and culture. International guests include the President of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Sari Nusseibeh and the Syrian Ambassador to the U.S., Imad Moustapha. Both guests had an opportunity to speak directly to the students of the Arabic program, this gave the students a chance to ask in-depth questions about the situations in the Middle East.

The program has also invited an assortment of musical guests. “Kan Zamaan”, a traditional Arabic band from Los Angeles performed at CMC with a beautiful collection of Arabic instruments, including the oud, nay, qanun, and a violin. John Bilezikjian, a Master Oud player, who plays a variety of styles of Middle Eastern music, was invited to play for the students of the Arabic program as one of the most acknowledged master. His wonderful performance allowed the students to hear the beautiful sounds of the Middle East as they have been heard for centuries. The students were also able to enjoy the music and poetry of Omar Offendum, an Arabic Hip-Hop artist from Los Angeles. His blend of modern rap and the Arabic language demonstrates how the two cultures have come together in these modern times. These opportunities have given greater insight into the musical culture of the Arab World and its place in American culture today.

These guests are only some of many special visitors that contributed to the Arabic class’ learning experience during its first year established at CMC. See the Gallery for pictures of the students participating in these special events. There will be many more events planned for next year.

Upcoming Events:

Speaker on September 28th: Mohja Kahf

Born in Damascus, Syria, Dr. Mohja Kahf graduated from Douglass College, founded as New Jersey's first women's college, and took her Ph.D. in comparative literature at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in 1994. Kahf has been a professor at the University of Arkansas since 1995. Her books include Western Representations of the Muslim Woman: From Termagant to Odalisque (University of Texas Press, 1999), a poetry volume, Emails from Scheherezad (University Press of Florida, 2003), and a novel called The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (Perseus, 2006), about an American Muslim girl in 1970s Indiana, at the crossroads of Islamic dress and bad polyester. Kahf teaches courses in Arabic literature, literature of the American religious experience, the Quran, medieval Spain, and Muslim feminist thought.

She will read a medley of poetry and fiction from new writings as well as published works. Kahf is also excited to share some of her translations-in-progress of a pagan Arab woman from the sixth century, Safiah bint Thalabah, and will read some of Safiah's poetry in the original Arabic.

Dr. Kahf's presentation is open to all students and faculty from the Claremont Colleges and the community. She will be speaking from 7 to 9 p.m. September 28th in Bauer Forum on Claremont McKenna Campus.

Cultural Activity on October 12th: Middle Eastern Dance

Students from the Arabic program will be taught the basics of Middle Eastern Dance in Pickford Auditorium from 7 pm tp 9 pm.

Speaker on October 19th: Fayeq Oweis

Fayeq Oweis is an Arab American artist, educator, and linguist. He holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with Concentration on Arabic and Islamic Studies focusing on Creative & Visual arts. Oweis is currently teaching Arabic Language and Culture at Santa Clara University and San Jose State University. He works on contemporary Islamic art and Arabic calligraphic compositions and has participated in a number of exhibits throughout the United States. He designed the exterior entranceway murals and the calligraphy of the dome at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. He also co-designed and directed the first Arabic/Islamic mural in San Francisco, and was a lead artist for the Palestinian Cultural mural honoring Dr. Edward Said at San Francisco State University. Oweis is a board member of ZAWAYA, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Arabic art and culture. He has written a number of articles and gave numerous presentations on Arab American Artists, Arabic Calligraphy, and Islamic art. He is the author of an Award winning book "Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists," which features about 100 Arab American visual artists. In addition to his academic and artistic work, Oweis also works as an Arabic localization consultant for major Internet companies in the Silicon Valley. More info can be found at his web site

Mr. Oweis will be giving a presentation entitled "Geometry of the Spirit: the Art of Arabic Calligraphy" on Tuesday, October 19th from 7 pm to 9 pm in Bauer Forum on Claremont McKenna College campus. His presentation is open to all students and faculty from the Claremont colleges and community members.

Speaker on October 26th: Paul Roochnik

Paul Roochnik did his graduate studies in Arabic and Linguistics at Georgetown University and taught under the supervision of Dr. Bassam Frangieh, now the director of the Arabic program at Claremont McKenna. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1993, he worked in the field of Arabic machine translation. The classroom, however, called him back relentlessly, and finally he returned to teaching in early September 2001 at Princeton University. A few days later, terrorists crashed jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. To support the war against terrorism, Roochnik applied for an Arabic teaching position at the U.S. Army's prestigious Defense Language Institute (DLI). A year later, after completing his commitment at Princeton, he moved to Monterey, California to join the DLI faculty, where he has taught Arabic since then as an Associate Professor.

"Our military students," remarks Roochnik, "have a tough job, with six classroom hours per day plus homework, on top of physical training and various military obligations. Far too often, overwhelmed by stress and fatigue, they fall down in their capacity to learn and retain language. Their performance deteriorates as the months go by, not because of incompetence or ineptitude, but because of cerebral burnout. College students face much of the same burnout that military students endure. This stress crisis cries out for an advanced technology of brain-training to reverse our students' stress and fatigue, increase their brain coherence, and bring out their full linguistic and intellectual potential."

Dr. Roochnik will address this issue, in Arabic, in his presentation on October 26th from 7 pm to 9 pm in Bauer Forum on Clarmont McKenna Campus. Dr. Roochnik's presentation is open to all students and faculty from the Claremont Colleges as well as community members.

If you have any questions,comments or suggestions, please let us know! Also, if you would like to receive updates on the Arabic Program's upcoming speakers and cultural activities, send your contact information to the Arabic Program Cultural Coordinator Melissa Carlson at to join the Arabic Program Activities email list.

National and International Visitors and Speakers:

  • His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah
  • Joumana Nammour
  • Imam Zaid Shakir
  • Her Excellency Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, Ambassador from the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States
  • Aysha Murad Ali, Cultural Councilor of the Kingdom of Bahrain
  • Mohamad Saadoun
  • His Excellency Imad Moustapha, Syrian Ambassador to the United States
  • Sari Nusseibeh, President and professor of Philosophy of Al-Quds University, Jerusalem
  • Master Oud player, John Bilezikjian
  • Kan Zamaan Traditional Arabic musical group
  • Arabic Calligraphy with Imad Beyoun
  • Arabic Hip-Hop and Poetry by Omar Offendum

His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah

His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah visited Claremont McKenna College on May 3rd, 2010, to receive an Honorary Degree from the college for his exemplar service to the world community. He received this award during an Honorary Degree Award ceremony at the Marian Miner Cook Athenauem. After the award ceremony, his excellency met with students from the Arabic Program and discussed the Bedouin in Kuwait, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, and U.S.-Kuwait and U.S.-Arab relations.

His Excellency is the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the State of Kuwait. He was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2003, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2005, by the Amir of Kuwait. Prior to these positions, HE Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah was the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from 2001-2003, and previously he served as the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States from 1993-2001. Other ministerial positions that he has held include Acting Minister of Finance, Acting Minister of Planning, and Acting Minister of Social Affairs and Labour.

In addition to his senior governmental positions, HE Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah has been the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development since 2003. The Kuwait Fund, founded in 1961, has more than $15 billion in total assets, and the object of the Fund is to assist Arab and other developing countries in developing their economies. The Fund's operations are focused primarily on the sectors of agriculture and irrigation, transport and communications, energy, industry, water and sewage.

He was a founding member and a member of the Executive Committee of the Kuwait America Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based charitable organization. Its mission, inspired by Kuwait's liberation by Allied Coalition forces in the Gulf War, is to express gratitude for American sacrifice and strengthen ties among the peoples of the two countries. Since 1991, The Foundation has focused its resources on education, cultural exchange and programs for youth and disadvantaged persons in the United States and internationally.

HE Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah has represented Kuwait at numerous bilateral and multi-lateral summits, international conferences, and GCC ministerial meetings. He meets regularly with the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and other senior U.S. officials.

HE Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah graduated from CMC in 1978 with a BA in Economics (cum laude). He earned a MA and Ph.D. in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard in 1985. Following his graduate work, he was an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Kuwait. He is married to Sheikha Feryal Duaij Al-Salman Al-Sabah, who accompanied him to Claremont, and they have two sons and two daughters. He is the father of Duaij Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, who will graduate in May, 2010. His hobbies are sailing and classical music.

Pictures of His Excellency's Visit

Joumana Nammour:


Joumana Nammour visited the Arabic Program at Claremont McKenna College on April 13th and 14th, 2010. Ms. Nammour is one of the most popular news anchors at Al Jazeera Satellite Television Channel. She joined Al Jazeera in 1998, and has become on of the leading program hosts and anchors at the 24-hour news channel. During the past twelve years, Ms. Nammour has interviewed numerous heads of state, prime ministers, senior government officials and leading political figures in the Aran and international world. She has also covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Ms. Nammour has her own daily political talk show, called "Behind the News," which focuses on current and political events and leading international news stories. "Behind the News" is one of the most widely watched political news and public affairs programs in the Arab World, and Ms. Nammour received an award in 2008 for being the first Arab woman to host a regular political talk show. The award was presented to her at the “Women and Global Leaders Forum” meeting in Dubai.

Ms. Nammour began her career in Lebanon as a news reporter and then presenter on Lebanese television channel NTV. She also worked as a producer and anchor on Lebanon's Future TV, where she launched the Arab World's first daily morning news program in the 1990's, called "The World this Morning." The program was very popular, and it became the most watched morning show in Lebanon. Ms. Nammour earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology and sociology in Lebanon. She is married and has two children, and she resides in Doha, Qatar.

Launched in 1996, Al Jazeera Satellite Channel quickly became one of the largest and most viewed Middle Eastern news channels, and the first channel in the region to offer news coverage 24 hours a day. The station's headquarters is based in Doha, Qatar, and today Al Jazeera Network has more than fifty bureaus around the world with 180 employees. More than one thousand journalists, directors, producers, and administrative staff work at the Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha. The station is viewed throughout the Middle East and internationally, and has some 75 million viewers.

Pictures of Joumana Nammour's Visit

Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir is among the most respected and influential Muslim scholars in the West. Born in Berkeley, California, the second of seven children he accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He then obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University, where he emerged as an active leader in campus activities, helping to revive the Muslim Student Association, co-leading a successful South Africa divestment campaign, and co-founding a local Islamic center, Masjid al- Huda. After a year in Cairo studying Arabic, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut and continued his tireless community activism, co-founding Masjid al-Islam, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee.

As Imam of Masjid al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he spearheaded a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort in the local neighborhood, and taught as an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University until his departure for Syria to further his studies in the traditional Islamic sciences. For seven years in Syria and briefly in Morocco he immersed himself in an intense study of Arabic, Islamic law, Qur’anic studies, and Islamic spirituality with some of the top Muslim scholars of our age. In 2001, he graduated from Syria’s prestigious Abu Noor University and returned to Connecticut to continue his work with the Muslim community in America.

Teaching regularly as the Imam of Masjid al-Islam, writing numerous articles for various magazines, journals, and newspapers, and lecturing frequently at many of America’s largest Muslim conferences and conventions, he soon emerged as one of the most popular and sought after American Muslim leaders. Among several works that he has authored and translated from Arabic into English are, his translation of The Heirs of the Prophets in 2001, Scattered Pictures: Reflections of An American Muslim in 2005 and Treatise for The Seekers of Guidance in 2008. In 2003, he moved to Hayward, California with his family to serve as a scholar-in- residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute, where he now teaches regular courses on Arabic, Islamic law, history, and Islamic spirituality. He has since lectured at many of the Bay Area’s top universities, including Stanford and U.C. Berkeley, and is a frequent speaker at local Muslim events. He is widely regarded as an articulate voice on Islam and African-American issues and as a visionary leader in the emergence of an Islamic community and tradition and that is indigenous to America.

Pictures of Imam Zaid Shakir's Visit

Her Excellency Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo

Before Her Excellency was appointed the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Untied States by His Majesty the King of Bahrain in July of 2008, Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo served as the Financial Director of both Gourmet and Jetflair International in the United Kingdom. She has also served as the managing director of Gulf Computer Services in the Kingdom of Bahrain. In 2006 Her Excellency was appointed by His Majesty the King to the Shura Council, the main legislative body of Bahrain, where she has been serving on the Committee for Finance and Economic Affairs. She is one of the founding members of Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) and was elected as General Secretary of BHRWS in September of 2005. In October 2008, Her Excellency was officially welcomed as an honorary member of the board of directors of the U.S. – Bahrain Business Council.

Throughout all of her career, Her Excellency has been persistent in improving working conditions in factories, raising awareness of the rights of women and children, campaigning for family and domestic law and raised awareness of the plight of domestic workers.

Pictures of Her Excellency's Visit

Cultural Councilor Aysha Murad Ali

Aysha Murad Ali, the Cultural Councilor at the embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, has dedicated her life to the development of education within her country. Before being appointed Cultural Attache in December 2006, Mrs. Aysha worked as a Senior Education Specialist in the Directorate of Private Education at the Ministry of Education of Bahrain. Mrs. Aysha has served on many different committees working on researching and developing education and has been a part-time lecturer at the University of Bahrain. She has also served as the Ministry of Education Representative on several private school boards. Through her position as the Cultural Attache, Mrs. Aysha has strongly worked towards expanding educational opportunities for Bahraini students; she has given students access to every resource and opportunity within her power; she has made it her main goal to spread knowledge and nurture the minds of students throughout her country.

Pictures of the Cultural Councilor's Visit

Mohamad Saadoun

Mr. Saadoun is the founder and owner of the largest Arabic book distribution outside of the Arab world. His Arabic book store Dar Al-Kitab Al-Arabi is located in Southern California and provides an extensive range of classic and contemporary Arabic literature to the entire nation. Mr. Saadoun is also a Lebanese-American intellectual and publisher.

Mr. Saadoun has an extensive knowledge of classical and contemporary Arabic literature and history. He lectures on both Islamic jurisprudence and the Arabic language and culture. Mr. Saadoun visited the Arabic Program at Claremont Mckenna College in October 2009 and gave a presentation on ancient Arabic manuscripts.

Pictures of Mohamad Saadoun's Visit

His Excellency Imad Moustapha

His Excellency Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador to the United States, is the rare ambassador who blogs. He recently posted on his favorite Syrian artists, the history of the Arab-Israeli war, and his summer vacation. Beyond blogging, he is influential in both Damascus and Washington. He writes frequently in both the English-language press and the Arabic-language press, and he is a guest on many television programs in the U.S. and Syria.

His Excellency became Ambassador to the United States in March 2004. Prior to that, he was Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at the University of Damascus, and Secretary General of the Arab School on Science and Technology. He is co-founder of the Network of Syrian Scientists, Technologists and Innovators Abroad (NOSSTIA), and was an active consultant to several international and regional organizations on Science and Technology policies in the Middle East (UNDP, UNESCO, ESCWA, ALECSO). He was also a member of the Syrian team responsible for drafting reform strategies for the ministries of Culture, Education, and Higher Education. Ambassador Moustapha holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Surrey, UK. His interests include globalization, cultural identities, social and economic impacts of the Internet, Syrian art and artists, and Western classical music. Ambassador Moustapha’s visit to CMC was hosted by Professor Bassam Frangieh and the Athenaeum.

Pictures of His Excellency's Visit

President Sari Nusseibeh:

In 1987 President Nusseibeh became noteworthy for his meeting with representatives of Israel’s Likud Party, one of the first meetings between prominent Palestinians and the right-wing Likud Party. During the First Infitada, Nusseibeh worked to author the Palestinian declaration of independence and created the inner workings of a future Palestinian government.

One of the most important issues of our time is the fate of the Palestinian people. With the elections in Israel, the Israeli invasion of Gaza and a new president in the White House, 2009 promises to be a pivotal year in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. Sari Nusseibeh, however, has heard this all this before and nothing has changed.

During the first Gulf War, Nusseibeh collaborated in Tel Aviv with Israeli Peace Now, a group that worked to prevent civilian deaths during the Gulf War. Nusseibeh was arrested by the Israeli government and accused of being an Iraqi spy. He was released from custody 90 days later, and was never formally charged with any crime. From 2001-2002, Nusseibeh served as the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) chief representative in Jerusalem. While serving as the PLO’s representative in Jerusalem, Nusseibeh championed the idea of a two-state solution, suggesting that Palestinians give up their right to the pre-partition land in exchange for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In 2002, Nusseibeh and Shin Bet director, Ami Ayalon created The People’s Voice, an Israeli-Palestinian publication that encourages peace between the two parties. Mr. Nusseibeh’s memoir, Once Upon A Country: A Palestinian Life (2007) has won critical acclaim from local and international critics.

Sari Nusseibeh was born to a distinguished Palestinian statesman, attended Christ Church at Oxford, and received his Ph.D. in Islamic Philosophy from Harvard University. After leaving Harvard, Nusseibeh became a professor of philosophy at Birzeit University in the West Bank and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. While at Birzeit, Nusseibeh founded the Federation of Employees in the Education Sector for the West Bank. Later Nusseibeh taught philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, the only Arab University in Jerusalem. Nusseibeh became president of Al-Quds University. He also serves on the advisory board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University.

Pictures of President Sari Nusseibeh's Visit

John Bilezikjian:

John Bilezikjian is considered on of the greatest Oud players of this generation. His mastery of this ancient instrument is the result of decades of practice and dedication to the art. He is renowned for the diversity of style in which he can play his instrument. For example, he can sing in 11 different languages including Arabic, Persian, Armenian, and English.

Bilezikjian is an acclaimed musician, singer, composer, and teacher. He has been performing for over 30 years. He also plays other instruments proficiently including the violin. He has also developed his own style of playing the oud that he performed for the Arabic class. Along with his own style, he played styles that would be found in a variety of countries such as Armenia, Turkey, the Arab World, and Eastern Europe.

His music gave the students an introduction to the traditional music of the Arab World that has been part of its culture for centuries. It was a great honor for Claremont McKenna College to host such a famous artist.

Pictures of John Bilezikjian's Visit

Supporting the Arabic Program:

All contributions go towards cultural activities, speakers, and sending students to study Arabic in Middle Eastern countries. If you would like to make a contribution to Claremont McKenna College's Arabic Program, please contact Steven Siegel at