For the past three years in late December, Dr. Amir Al-Khafaji, professor and department chair of civil engineering and construction at Bradley, has led a group of Bradley students on a 21-day adventure through Egypt. The students spend five days a week studying at the American University in Cairo from 8 a.m. to noon. They travel throughout the afternoons and evenings to places most people have only seen in pictures.
The $3,200 cost includes tuition for a three-credit-hour course as well as airfare, ground transportation, hotel accommodations (including five-star hotels), breakfasts, tickets to historical sites, a bus trip to Alexandria, riding a sleeping train to Luxor, a New Year’s Eve dinner cruise on the Nile which lasts until 3 a.m., and a farewell dinner. “Many of our civil engineering and construction students received financial support from Williams Brothers and River City Construction to help with the cost of the trip, and for this we are very grateful,” says Al-Khafaji.
This year, students had the option of taking a civil engineering and construction class, taught by F. Eugene Rebholz MBA '76, associate professor of civil engineering and construction, or an early history of the Middle East class, taught by Dr. Gregory Guzman, Caterpillar professor of history. When classes were not in session, students toured pyramids, dined on delicious cuisine, and immersed themselves in the Egyptian culture. Many students picked up a few phrases of the Arabic language while in Egypt, and even learned to bargain with the locals over the prices of souvenirs at the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar. Some of the historic locations on the itinerary were the Great Temples of Luxor and Karnak and the Valley of the Kings, the Roman Theatre, ancient Alexandria, the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, and the Great Pyramids of Giza. “It was wonderful to see how our students bonded while being exposed to an awesome history and culture. We stayed at places that even tourists couldn’t afford!” says Al-Khafaji.
“Seeing the pyramids was beyond anything I could describe in words,” says political science major Erin Murphy ’06. “I really enjoyed touching the hieroglyphics that were 4,000 years old, stepping into the same tombs as the ancient Romans, and just feeling like a part of history.”
Al-Khafaji assures parents that every measure is taken to keep the students safe. “When the students arrive in Cairo, they become students of the American University in Cairo, which consists of a very international campus located in Cairo and a hostel on an island in the Nile,” says Al-Khafaji. “When we go out as a group, we are usually accompanied by armed guards. This year, the students, including my son Ali, went shopping and exploring without guards after seeing how safe the area was,” he adds.
“My parents were concerned,” says Murphy, “but I just kept telling them that this was the safest way to visit Egypt—with a professor who speaks Arabic, knows the culture, and has connections.”
“We get into places
Al-Khafaji admits that orchestrating a trip such as this one requires the help of many Egyptians and friends at the American University in Cairo. “We have created contacts with a number of influential people in Egypt. They open doors for us and provide assistance when needed. We get into places and do things that others can’t,” says Al-Khafaji.
Adds Rebholz, “The Egyptians greeted us with open arms. At many shops, they would offer tea without expecting anything in return.”
Al-Khafaji says that everyone works together to ensure that the trip creates fond memories for the students. Throughout the trip, Rebholz shot and e-mailed photos that were uploaded daily to a Web site so families could see what their loved ones were doing in Egypt. Guzman helped make the tours more memorable by sharing his knowledge of ancient history with the students. And Al-Khafaji typically saves the highly anticipated visit to the Pyramids at Giza for last because he wants it to “be like the Super Bowl.”
“The trip is a life-changing and character-building experience that no course we offer on campus can match. It’s an opportunity for the students to experience a new world of possibilities they could never understand on their own,” adds Al-Khafaji. “Bradley is now recognized in Egypt for the integrity of its program and the quality of its students. I am proud of our students and faculty because they were professional, inquisitive, kind, and truly Bradley Braves.”
For more information about the program visit studyabroad.bradley.edu.
To see additional photos from this year’s trip, visit bradley.edu/academics/eng/Civil/Html/ then select the Study Abroad button and then Egypt from the menu.