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Middle East Center Turns 50

Fifty years ago the Middle East Center at the University of Utah was founded to to enhance awareness of the Middle East, its diverse peoples and cultures. The center promotes both specialized knowledge and public understanding of this crucial area of the world, which includes the Arab states, Turkey, Iran and Israel.

To celebrate the milestone, the Middle East Center invites the public to a year of art exhibits, film festivals, lecture series and panel discussions commemorating 50 years of communities and cultural traditions.

“Throughout its 50 years of existence, the Middle East Center has combined language training with instruction in the history, politics, culture, religion, literature and textual traditions of the Middle East,” says Middle East Center Director, Bahman Baktiari. “Its impact on the State of Utah, the Intermountain West, and the nation as a whole has been widely acclaimed.”

The celebration will take place throughout 2010 to 2011 and will kick-off with the following events:

Exhibit Honoring Aziz Atiya, Marriott Library, 3rd floor Atrium, through December 1, 2010.

In 1965, at the invitation of University of Utah President A. Ray Olpin, Aziz Atiya came to Utah to deliver the commencement address. This event was to mark the beginning of his long and fruitful association with the University of Utah. At the request of Olpin, Atiya founded the Center for Intercultural Studies, later to become The Middle East Center. Atiya began to collect an extensive library of books and manuscripts which became the Aziz S. Atiya Library for Middle East Studies, housed at the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library.

The Aziz S. Atiya Library for Middle East Studies is the fifth largest such collection in North America and is recognized internationally as a major research library in this field. The collection contains over 160,000 books, monographs, and periodicals, including works written in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and modern Turkish.

Art Exhibit: George Kosinski’s “Jerusalem” and Ilonka Nakhleh’s “Faces of Muslim Women,” Alta Club, Salt Lake City, Nov. 13 to Dec. 1, 2010

Born in Scotland, raised in England, yet retaining his Polish background, George Kosinski’s watercolor works on Jerusalem are internationally recognized. His journey in watercolors is a painter’s pilgrimage through the Middle East that captures the timeless Holy Land in portraits filled with memory and majesty, light and luminosity, history and a hint of heaven.

“Faces of Muslim Women,” by Ilonka Nakhleh, provides eleven pieces of her work that expresses the beauty of the people in the tribal areas of North African and other Middle Eastern societies and reflect much of their history, culture, and art.

Panel Presentation: President Obama’s Cairo Speech of 2009: Assessing the United States’ Engagement with the Muslim World, Nov. 15, noon to 1:30 p.m., Gould Auditorium, Marriott Library

Panelists include:

  • Frank Anderson, president of the Middle East Policy Council.
  • Emile Nakhleh, author of Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World.
  • Bahman Baktiari, director of The Middle East Center.

For more information on the Middle East Center’s 50th Anniversary events, visit