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What are the conditions like for conducting research due to the pandemic? Only two fellows were in Egypt when the pandemic closed all public institutions and the ARCE office in Spring and Summer 2020. These fellows were required to self-isolate and spent their time writing up the material they collected before everything closed down. In winter 2021, one fellow conducted research in a government archive and reported the archive was largely empty. Two fellows are expected in October 2021.
Life appears to have returned to its normal rhythm. Streets are active and crowded. A small percentage of people wear masks, which are mandated on public transportation, on Uber, in banks and in some other public and private locations. Enforcement is irregular. Accounts of people you might interact with or their family members getting COVID-19 seems to come in waves – for a while you don’t hear anything and then it seems lots of people you know about, have reported positive.
The CDC currently ranks Egypt as a Level 2, moderate risk country. According to Reuters the national vaccination rate is 4.7%. You should be fully vaccinated before coming to Egypt, minimize being in closed populated places, wear a mask inside and in crowded outdoor areas and wash or sanitize your hands often. The US Embassy website provides current information on conditions in Egypt.
Government institutions including archives and museums are open for research and the public at this time. The ARCE office operates with reduced staff, with most staff working remotely full time. Some foreign cultural center libraries remain closed or operate on a sign up basis to ensure social distancing.
How long will it take to complete the ARCE application? Previous fellows have indicated that they set aside 6-8 hours over the span of a week or two to complete the application, not including time for editing and revisions. Reference letters are also due on January 20, so make sure to request them early.
How do I fill out the Ministry of Higher Education Application and Security Forms? Click on these Tips for Filling out the MOHE forms for assistance in this task.
What is the selection committee looking for in my application? ARCE does not require a specific structure for proposals, but key components should include your: 1) guiding research questions, 2) research methodology, 3) a clear thesis statement, and 4) a literature review. The committee is looking for academic achievement and promise. Strong reference letters that speak directly to your research and your capacity to carry it out successfully will also support your candidacy.
What if my referrals don’t submit their recommendations on time? Planning ahead is the best strategy to ensure that your referrals have enough time to write a letter of recommendation. If an emergency arises for one of your referrals and s/he can’t make the deadline, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org immediately or before the submission deadline.
Who can I contact if I have questions about my topic or technical problems filling out the application? If you have any questions about the application process, your topic, or technical issues, please contact: email@example.com.
The ARCE Fellowship Experience
Do all fellows conduct their research in Cairo? Most fellows conduct their research in Cairo because the largest number of museums and archives are found there. But fellows frequently visit archives, collections and heritage sites located in cities like Alexandria, Luxor, and Aswan. Less frequently fellows may need to consult archives or collections in other urban centers such as Port Said, Suez, and Minya.
How long will it take to find an apartment in Cairo? Most fellows find an apartment before the end of their first week in Cairo; others at the end of their first day. Cairo Scholars is a favored site for finding roommates. Some fellows also rent long-term using Airbnb or by contacting local rental agents. It should be noted that ARCE has no official ties to any of these platforms or agencies, and that fellows are expected to select and arrange their accommodation independently.
How affordable is living in Cairo/Egypt? The majority of ARCE’s fellows find living in Cairo to be very affordable. While costs have increased since the 2015 devaluation, the fellows’ stipend is more than adequate to live comfortably in Egypt. Vegetables and fruit are inexpensive and Egypt produces a wide range of dairy products, snack foods, and beverages. Imported products are also widely available. There is also a variety of restaurants to choose from, featuring everything from local Egyptian fare to sushi to Indian to standard fast food chains. In other words, there’s something for every budget, occasion, and appetite!
What do fellows do when they aren’t chasing down their research? Cairo has a thriving music, art and café scene that many fellows seek out after their work hours. Local neighborhood gyms and wellness centers are also very common. The Red Sea and Alexandria are just a few hours from Cairo and offer a chance to leave the city behind and enjoy a change of scenery for a weekend or more. And then of course there are Egypt’s incredible monuments and heritage sites to visit!
I have a pretty structured exercise routine. How will I keep this up? There are local neighborhood gyms and international gym chains located across Cairo. Swimmers can also purchase pool memberships at major international hotels. Other groups that fellows commonly join include the Maadi Runners, Cairo Runners and Cairo Cyclists Club.
My research requires I visit collections and archives outside of Cairo, is that possible? Absolutely. Fellows may travel to other urban centers by train, private driver or air for several days or weeks at a time. ARCE assists fellows in organizing these visits.
Several of the archaeological sites I want to visit for my research are slightly off the beaten track. How do I arrange getting there? ARCE staff will help you to organize this. If we don’t have contacts in the area you are visiting, we will consult one of our Research Supporting Member (RSM) expeditions to help identify local contacts. Additionally, we will refer you to the local Ministry of Antiquities inspectorate.
What kind of support does ARCE offer? In addition to financial support, ARCE staff is always available to advise and guide you in your research and in navigating the ins and outs of life in Egypt. ARCE provides personal introductions, letters of introduction, recommendations about how to pace or plan your research, where to get mobile and Internet services, apartment hunting tips, information on doctors and hospitals, and pretty much any other information you might need while living and researching in Egypt. In addition, the fellows’ cohort meets on a monthly basis to discuss research challenges and successes. Fellows are also invited to give and attend lectures and special events at the center.
What do fellows do after their fellowships end? Fellows usually return to their universities to complete their dissertations, resume classroom teaching or continue their sabbatical. A large number of dissertation and postdoctoral fellows leave Egypt for follow-on fellowships. Recent fellows have been awarded fellowships with the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Institute for Middle East Studies, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and the Historians of Islamic Art Association.