Leiden University’s Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies covers virtually the entire Middle East, both in time and in geography. This is unique for the Netherlands, and extremely rare elsewhere. If you are interested in Middle Eastern languages, literature, religion and history, you will discover that developments in modern times take a central place in the study of these disciplines. On the other hand, it is equally possible for you to explore the classical heritage of Islam for which Leiden is internationally renowned.
The staff’s extensive international network will give you opportunities for research abroad at various institutions and universities in the Middle East itself, making the programme even more unique in the Netherlands.
The MA in Middle Eastern Studies exposes you to research covering the history, literature, languages and politics of the Arab, Persian and Turkish world, with special attention for the field of Islamic law, anthropology, philology and the modern Middle East.
You can specialise in one of five different areas, each of which can be further tailored to your field of interest by opting for a particular disciplinary approach, such as linguistics, anthropology, history, literary studies, or the Modern Middle East; or by choosing a particular geographic region, such as Morocco or Central Asia; or alternatively by concentrating on a particular historical period, such as the Middle Ages or the twentieth century.
It is also possible to study Middle Eastern Studies as a two-year programme.
Apart from the contents, there can be other arguments to choose for either a Master’s or a Research Master’s programme. Have a look at the table in pdf for a quick overview of the differences. For more details on the contents, also visit the Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies (research) pages".
Alexander Wielemaker investigated Istanbul’s network of public fountains. It proved to be a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the Ottoman Sultan.
The Sultan’s mind
My research focuses on Istanbul’s network of public fountains, which at the time provided the local population with clean drinking water. Their architecture, ornaments and calligraphic inscriptions make these buildings imposing monuments to power and status. Their construction was financed by the Sultan, his concubines, high officials, Islamic scholars or eunuchs. Linking the sponsors to their fountains makes it possible to discover how each of them chose to express their status and personality. It’s fascinating, like being given a glimpse into the mind of the Sultan or that of one of his eunuchs.
Philanthropy and jealousy
Rich Ottomans would donate one of these fountains to the city out of (Islamic) charity, but they were also aware of the fact that their gift would benefit their credibility and popularity. That is why the design of these fountains was subject to such strict rules. If the calligraphy was one line too long or the ornaments too exuberant for your status, shame and a prison sentence would be your lot. The Sultan was the only one who was free to decorate his constructions as grotesquely as he wished.
The underlying idea is that all cultural expressions, whether high or low, tell us something about how people think and how they view life. What is relevant to my research is the fact that architecture and water distribution were used for political purposes, namely to express power and status. Art and architecture are therefore not simply ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’; they also carry a message. This raises the question: to what extent is this still true in today’s world?