Beyond Golden Age and Decline: The Legacy of Muslim Societies in Global Modernity, 1300-1900

This website is a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the Bridging Cultures Initiative on the Muslim World and the Humanities.  This project aims to reshape dominant thinking about the impact of Muslim societies in the formation of modern world, with focus on political, cultural, artistic, economic and social achievements between 1300 and 1900, an era still commonly described by the words “decline” and “stagnation” in popular culture.  The website includes presentations from a Scholars Forum, bibliographies, and other resources.

Bridging a Cultural Divide with Literature about Arabs and Arab Americans

An article by Tami Craft Al-Hazza & Katherine T. Bucher, published in The Association for Middle Level Education Middle School Journal, January 2010, volume 41,no. 3, pages 4-11

Cultural Orientation

Cultural Orientations from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center offer an engaging introduction to a given cultural group. Linguists and non-linguists alike will benefit from these interactive materials and pertinent language exchanges that are coupled with an objective and practical look at daily life in different contexts. Topics include religion, traditions, family life and differences in the lifestyles of urban and rural populations.

Culture: A Collection of Articles from Teach Mideast

A collection of articles about Middle Eastern culture from Teach Mideast

Culture: A Rich Mosaic

A Global Connections resource about Middle Eastern culture.

Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Middle East

This is a short reading from the University of Notre Dame on the Ethnic and Religious Diversity in the Middle East. It includes a great map.

Ethno-Religious Minorities in Iraq

Information about religious minorities living in Iraq.

FAMiliarization: Facts and Figures

This collection of resources from the DLIFLC includes fact sheets about the history, culture, and language of countries around the world.

Inside the Kingdom: The Religion, Culture, and Politics of Saudi Arabia

In January, 2002, a NewsHour team traveled to Saudi Arabia to explore the culture of one of America’s strongest allies in the Middle East.  This site includes videos and interviews.

Legends and Folktales

Folktales and legends embedded in a specific culture provide an opportunity to explore and teach rich and fascinating social lessons.

A Social History of Coffee

In memory of the Lebanese historian, Dr. Kamal Salibi (1929- 2011), the Department of History and Archaeology at the American University of Beirut hosted a lecture by Harvard professor Cemal Kafadar, who presented a fresh approach for thinking about the role of coffee in world history.

The Amazigh (Berber) Struggle: An Infographic (text)

An interactive infographic from AlJazeera detailing Amazigh cultural and political movements which have developed over time and demand everything from linguistic rights to full autonomy.

The Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour (video)

Jamil Abu-Wardeh jump-started the comedy scene in the Arab world by founding the Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour, which brings standup comedians to laughing audiences all over the region. He’s found that, by respecting the “three B’s” (blue material, beliefs and “bolitics”), the Axis of Evil comics find plenty of cross-border laughs.

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story (video)

Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice—and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. Note: This lecture isn’t Middle East specific

Contestant No. 2 (video)

How far can one young woman push a conservative culture? Duah Fares is an Arab-Israeli teenager and member of the Druze minority, a religious sect living predominantly in Israel, Syria and Lebanon.  When she changes her name to Angelina and sets her sights on the Miss Israel pageant, her tight-knit religious community balks. Miss Israel requires a bathing suit competition, but to appear that way in public would disgrace her family and even put her in danger from those who would rather see her dead than see the community dishonored.

Contestant No. 2 follows Fares and her family as they navigate the boundaries of traditional values while she tries to achieve her dream.

Culture, from Your Middle East (text)

A collection of articles about Middle Eastern culture from

CultureTalk: In English (video)

A collection of short videos featuring young people from the Middle East and the around the world speaking about their culture in English.

Faces of Turkey: Adventures in Sustainable Eating (video)

In travel or in our daily lives, at restaurants or at markets, we pass by others, forgetting that all the people we interact with are just like us… human: full of happiness and pain and hope. In Turkey, we tried to take an extra moment to “see” some of the food producers that make up this wonderful country

Faith Versus Tradition in Islam (video)

Journalist Mustafa Akyol talks about the way that some local cultural practices (such as wearing a headscarf) have become linked, in the popular mind, to the articles of faith of Islam. Has the world’s general idea of the Islamic faith focused too much on tradition, and not enough on core beliefs? (Filmed at TEDxWarwick.)

Jadaliyya: Culture (text)

A collection of articles posted on Jadaliyya about Culture in the Middle East

Mecca, Holiest City in Islam (images)

Pictures of Mecca, the Kaaba, and surrounding areas.

Muslim Journeys Web Resources (multimedia)

These resources support the Muslim Journeys Collection and provide great information about various aspects of Islam and Muslim Culture and Civilization in the US and around the world.

Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things (images)

Pictures of Muslims wearing things in order to breakdown stereotypes.

Stand-up Comedy in the Middle East (audio)

Dean Obeidallah, a comedian who performs and teaches in the Arab world, talks about the growing popularity of stand-up in the region and its potential to push boundaries.  Audio recording from America Abroad

The Sand Castle (video)

WIDE ANGLE travels to the royal headquarters of the United Arab Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah as HH Sheikh Saud solicits top European architects to carry out his grandiose dream of a new capital city in the middle of his desert kingdom. The documentary follows a Norwegian architectural firm as it makes its bid to design the capital’s master plan, immersing viewers inside an unfolding drama in which agents of East and West struggle to arrive at an architectural vision both worlds can embrace — and one that will ultimately fulfill a Sheikh’s bold dreams.

Words and Deeds–Freedom of Expression and Arab Youth (audio)

In a politically stagnant region where absolute monarchies and authoritarian regimes restrict political activity and freedom of speech, what are the alternative channels for self‐expression? How do young people participate in the political, civic, and cultural spheres? And, what are the consequences of a large youth population frustrated by life under repressive regimes?  Podcast from America Abroad

Access Islam

Access Islam is a pioneering new tool designed to support the study of Islam in grades 4-8. Comprising over 100 minutes of digital video from the award-winning PBS series Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. The site also contains high quality, multi-media tools; downloadable lesson plans; and resources related to Islamic holidays, traditions and cultures. The video segments can be used alone, or in conjunction with any of 10 lesson plans which are aligned to national standards and vetted by an advisory committee of experts in education and Islamic cultures.

Across and Between Borders: The Refugee Experience and the Middle East

This article offers different perspectives on the refugee experience.

Al Masdar

This website, developed by the Qatar Foundation International, provides resources for students and teachers about Arabic language and culture.

Alike and Different: The Middle East and the United States

This lesson will ask students to examine the similarities and differences between the Middle East and their own city, state, and country. Students will practice basic map skills by examining maps of the Middle East at National Geographic’s Hot Spot: Iraq Web site and maps of their own region, looking for similar features: rivers, lakes, cities, marshes, etc. They will look at a map of Baghdad and compare it to a map of their own city, a city they have visited, or any major U.S. city. Finally, they will fill in and label their own blank outline maps of the Middle East region and the United States.

American Iranian Friendship Council Educator’s Page

With profiles of culture, economics, geography and more, this website provides helpful information about Iran.

Arab Culture through Literature and Film

Arab Culture through Literature and Film is a five unit high school curriculum that provides students with knowledge and tools to analyze and understand the Arab world. The materials utilize a student-centered pedagogical approach that promotes critical thinking and respect and encourages engaged global citizenship. Through this curriculum, students will recognize shared themes across the region and gain a sense of the rich diversity inherent to the multidimensional cultures of the Arab world. Students will study life and culture in the Arab world and engage with primary sources including films, short stories, and poems. Exposing students to Arab voices and putting human faces on the Arab world will increase understanding and tolerance in the American classroom.

Are You Listening? Voices from the Middle East

This very popular anthology, produced by The Outreach Center, consists of short stories and excerpts from memoirs and novels written by indigenous authors and translated and adapted for the U.S. classroom.

psu logo edited Being Young in Iran: Kristine Bahareh Rabii and Monica Parisa Rabii

Video footage of presentation given at Middle East Studies Center Workshop, People, Power, and Protest: Iran.  In this  presentation, PSU students Kristine and Monica Rabii talk about what it’s like to be young in Iran.  View accompanying powerpoint slides here.

Celebrating Nowruz: A Resource for Educators

A teaching resource about the Iranian New Year for educators.

CultureTalk: In English (video)

A collection of short videos featuring young people from the Middle East and the around the world speaking about their culture in English.

Daily Life in the Middle East

This lesson will ask students to focus on the people of Iraq . They will think critically about what the media delivers, why it focuses so heavily on war coverage, and how this may contribute to skewed views of Iraq and its people. Students will explore Iraq’s rich cultural history and read online articles or print publications about daily life in Iraq. Finally, in small groups, they will study further one aspect of daily life in Iraq (or another country in the Middle East) and create presentations for the rest of the class.

Day of Ahmed’s Secret

In this lesson for the elementary school classroom, students read Day of Ahmed’s Secret to learn about Egypt.

Educational and Cultural Perspectives on Iran

These lesson plans provide activities and discussion questions to help students explore stereotypes and develop a framework for understanding cultural identity.  These lesson plans help students and teachers develop strategies to support multicultural students.

Exchange 2.0

This program uses new media technologies to enable deep social learning across cultures.


psu logo edited Mem u Zin: Understanding Kurdish Culture through Poetry and Film

In this lesson, high school students watch the Kurdish film Mem u Zin to understand Kurdish culture. Students explore life cycle events and how the film symbolizes Kurdish longing for their land

Middle Eastern-American Resources Online

This site provides educators, students, and professionals access to a variety of materials about Americans who trace their ancestry to the Middle East. Arabic, Armenian, Iranian, Israeli and Turkish-speaking immigrants and other smaller numeric groups from the Middle East and North Africa have settled in the United States since the late nineteenth century. Together with their descendants, they comprise a diverse and important panethnic community deserving attention and study, especially by America’s precollegiate schools and institutions of higher learning.

Persian Poetry Through the Ages

A guide to Persian poetry.

Rethinking the Region: New Approaches to the 9-12 US Curriculum on the Middle East and North Africa

This curriculum was born out of an extensive analysis of textbooks used in US high schools to teach about the MENA region. The authors identified five themes and developed detailed, web-based teaching materials to offer robust alternatives to 9-12 teachers.  The themes are as follows:

  • Women & Gender
  • Plural Identities
  • Empire & Nation
  • Political & Social Movements
  • Arts & Technology

Shadya: The Israeli Arab Experience

During this lesson, students will investigate the situation of Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel and how the film Shadya draws attention to a population rarely exposed in the media. Students will then use their research skills to take a deeper look at a minority group in another country and present their findings and recommendations online.  Watch the film here.

Teaching about Refugees

This page hosts sample lesson plans and resources for teachers to use in designing a unit about refugees and forced displacement. The project derives itself from field research completed in Jordan and Lebanon during May and June 2013. These lessons are aimed at secondary school students.

psu logo editedThe Arabic Language

Though many other languages are spoken in the Arab World, the Arabic language serves as both a key identifier to membership in the Arab world as well as a metaphor for Arab identity as united and diverse. Arabic’s major dialect groups are: North African, Egyptian, Gulf Arabic, Levantine and Iraqi. Each of these dialect groups contains many subgroups, and has been impacted by geography, history, and even mass media. Earlier in the unit, students study the geography and political borders in the Arab world. In this lesson, they build on that knowledge to explain and understand the pattern of dialect groups.

Umm Kulthum Curriculum

The purpose of this curriculum is to guide an exploration of the life of the legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum and of the Arab world she enchanted. Her life story provides an entry point for developing rich and nuanced historical and cultural understandings. Umm Kulthum’s musical artistry and poetic lyrics also touch upon language arts themes, including lessons about genre, tone, figurative language, and imagery.  By Al Bustan

psu logo edited Virtual Voyage to Iran

by Lisa Walker (Iran-7th grade-Social Studies).  This lesson introduces students to the life and culture of Iran by taking students on a virtual journey through the country.

Young Adult Literature about the Middle East: A Cultural Response Perspective

Incorporating literature from diverse cultures and with diverse points of view means more than adding new books to the reading list. Exposing students to literature from and about the Middle East requires particular sensitivity, as students may approach the text with incorrect, often negative, prejudices. This lesson supports the use of multicultural literature through modification of traditional literature circle roles using a cultural response perspective. Students read and share their responses and research in collaborative groups. At the end of the lesson, they write a letter about their book’s main character as if he or she has just moved to their school and community.

This lesson plan adapted from classroom ideas in Middle Ground: Exploring Selected Literature from and about the Middle East by Sheryl L. Finkle and Tamara J. Lilly.