Arab Studies


Arab Culture and History. This extensive course can be treated in discrete, separate components or as a comprehensive overview of the Arab world. Students are first introduced to the geography of the Arab states including border conflicts, geopolitics, physical features, maritime ‘choke points,’ and the major challenges posed by access to water and desertification. Following this, the students delve into the economics of the Arab world both as a whole and through the perspective of individual Arab states. Considerable emphasis is placed on the distorting role that oil and natural gas play in some of the economies as well as the fundamental political and social challenges that obstruct would-be economic reformers. The students are provided with a comprehensive overview of Arab history, including the pre-Islamic civilizations, the impact of the early Caliphates, the Crusades, Western imperialism, independence, nationalism, and the more recent impact of the Arab Spring. Finally, the course offers an overview of Arab culture by examining the following topics: (1) family and gender; (2) beliefs and values; (3) tribal societies; (4) minority peoples; (5) autocracy and democracy; (6) literature and the arts. The overarching cultural theme is diversity:  each state, region, and social unit can be substantially different from another regarding gender, religion, customs, and the importance of tribe and clan.

History of Modern Saudi Arabia. This course investigates the recent history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Students begin by examining the personality and charisma of ‘Abd al-Aziz Ibn al-Saud as he overpowered tribal and foreign rivals to lay the foundations of the current Saudi state. The discovery of oil is explored along with the rise of the Arab-American Oil Company (ARAMCO) as it dominated not only the Saudi oil industry but the country’s national economy and politics as well. The so-called ‘Arab Cold War’ is investigated at length from a Saudi perspective as the royal family successfully navigated the political minefields posed by Nasserism, the Egyptian war in Yemen, and the consolidation of the Palestinian nationalist movement. In 1979, multiple threats emerged to the Saudi position, including Iran’s Islamic Revolution, the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Finally, students are exposed to the trials and tribulations of the Saudi state in more recent years, such as the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the rise of al-Qa’ida, America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the 2011 Arab Spring.

The Contemporary Arab World

Introduction to Islam and Muslims. This course introduces Islam and Muslim societies from the following approaches: (1) Islamic cultural environment, its structures, values, basic language elements, and social practices; (2) the socially accepted norms and values in the Islamic world, the subtleties of this culture, and how to work within Islamic environments; and (3) the challenges that Islamic culture presents to foreigners and how to overcome them.

Introduction to Culture and Society in the Arab World. This course provides an introduction to a select number of themes in Arab culture by exploring the following themes: (1) The varieties of subcultures distinguished by particular sets of language, religious sectarianism and ethnic groups in the Arab world; (2) the socially accepted norms in the Arab world, structure of Arab society, tradition, systems of codes, and prominent values (honor, power, hierarchy, tribe, clan, gender, family, morality, social relationship); and (3) the socio-political transformations of Arab societies and their impact on the ways of life of rural as well as urban settlers at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Understanding Iraq. This course maps out: (1) an historical overview; (2) a country profile; (3) a review of political institutions and economy (oil industry...); (4) the major ethnic groups, such as the Kurds, Turkmen, and Assyrians; Islam and Muslim sectarian groups, Christianity and Christian sectarian groups; (5) the main political, religious and ideological parties and groups, emphasizing historical personalities and cultural elements; and finally (6) the course concludes with some considerations on Iraq's future.

Islamist Movements in the Arab World. This course focuses on (1) the conditions that led to the emergence of the Islamist movements; (2) the relationship between their thinking and praxis in particular political and social contexts; and (3) the radical and moderate orientations of these movements, highlighting the reasons behind such approaches and their impact on the current situation in the Arab world. 

Arabic Language Instruction

"Survival" instruction in Arabic. These intensive courses, typically ranging from two to six weeks in length, provide trainees with the basics of language (appropriate greetings, numbers, directions, common exchanges) necessary to survive and avoid cultural conflict or impropriety in-country. In an effort to ease the challenge of adjustment, we supplement language instruction with information on the specific area in which units will be stationed, including relevant political and social conditions, cultural and social norms, and information on residents' attitudes toward the U.S. and our military.

Intensive refresher courses in Modern Standard Arabic. These courses are tailored for military personnel who have attained "2" or "2+" proficiency but whose language skills have weakened as they have pursued other duty assignments. Typically six weeks in length, these sessions are taught by instructors with experience in intensive instruction (including several hired from DLI), and employ the same technology, format, and small-class approach used at DLI. Typical focus is on refreshing spoken and listening skills, with some reading content.

Year-long intensive language instruction designed to produce proficiency at the 2/2+ level is also available for Arabic.