Celebrating 10 Years of Successful Arab-German Research Cooperation

AGYA Annual Spring Conference 2024 in Berlin

AGYA celebrated its 10th anniversary with an engaging and dynamic Annual Spring Conference held across multiple locations in Berlin. The event brought together members, alumni/ae, and distinguished speakers from Germany and numerous Arab countries, setting the stage for the next decade of fruitful research collaboration and knowledge exchange. 

Reunion of AGYA Members and Alumni
The conference in Berlin reunited for the first time more than 80 AGYA members and alumni/ae. On the special occasion of AGYA’s 10th anniversary, not only active but also former members from all cohorts since the foundation of AGYA in 2013 joined the festivities to celebrate a decade of shared successes in international research.

The inaugural day concluded with a significant highlight: AGYA was invited by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) to the event ‘300 Years of Kant’. The grand celebration at the BOLLE Festsäle in Berlin-Moabit marked the 300th anniversary of the German philosopher’s birth. The Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Olaf Scholz delivered the keynote address, reflecting not only on Kant's philosophical legacy but also its relevance and implications for contemporary societal issues and political decision-making. On this occasion, AGYA members and alumni/ae had the opportunity to get together with the Federal Chancellor.

Exhibition Opening and Highlight of the AGYA Anniversary Celebrations
The main public event of the AGYA Annual Conference took place at the James Simon Gallery and celebrated 10 years of AGYA as part of the festive opening of the exhibition ‘Elephantine – Island of the Millennia’, curated by AGYA Principal Investigator Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper and realized in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The exhibition offers an immersive exploration of the Egyptian Island of Elephantine, showcasing 4.000 years of diverse cultural history through texts, archaeological artefacts and contemporary artistic interpretations.

Long-standing affiliates of AGYA warmly received the interested audience: Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Heritage Foundation and AGYA Advisory Board Member, Dr. Jens Brandenburg, Vice Minister of Education and Research, AGYA alumnus Prof. Dr. Tarek Tawfik, President of the International Association of Egyptologists & Cairo University, and Kai Gehring, Chair of Committee of Education, Research and Technology Assessment of the German Bundestag, Prof. Dr. Friederike Seyfried, Director of Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, each offered their congratulations to AGYA, emphazising the Academy's significant role as a model for successful bi-lateral research cooperation as well as the remarkable achievements of the exhibition.

Elephantine was a uniquely diverse place in ancient Egypt: It demonstrates that cosmopolitan communities are by not means modern phaenomena. We can learn here from the past, for the present and maybe even for the future.

Verena Lepper, AGYA Principal Investigator & Curator of the Exhibition

The festive opening was followed by a visit of the exhibition with the curator. The following reception, brought together a diverse audience of stakeholders and long-time supporters of AGYA. Live music from members of the Egyptian rock band Wust El Balad together with Berlin-based artist Ali Hasan rounded off the exhibition opening with a memorable and vibrant get-together of AGYA members, alumni/ae and esteemed guests.

Scientific Networking with High-ranking Local and International Guests
In a week filled with a rich programme, a science lunch featuring the Robert Bosch Academy’s Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow from Jordan Prof. Dr. Rana Dajani, moderated by AGYA Co-President Prof. Dr. Sascha Hein and AGYA member Prof. Dr. Suhair Sunoqrot, facilitated networking and knowledge sharing among AGYA members and alumni/ae and beyond.

Discussions with high-ranking stakeholders in science policy, namely Prof. Dr. Claus-Peter Haase, former director of the Museum für Islamische Kunst Berlin, and member of the AGYA Advisory Board Ziad Mikati from the Lebanon-based Mikati Foundation, centred on new directions for science diplomacy and its role in AGYA's future. Furthermore, an information session was held by Kathrin Knodel from the German Research Foundation (DFG), who informed AGYA members about new funding opportunities. 

Another highlight of the conference was the sixth session of the AGYA Literary Salon featuring renowned writer Dr. Senthuran Varatharajah in discussion with AGYA alumnus Dr. Kirill Dmitriev at Werkstatt Exilmuseum. Under the heading “Exiled Writing – Writing Exile: Literature between Escape and Attachment”, the event gave an insight into Varatharajah’s award-winning works and shed light on how authors in exile navigate their unique circumstances, weaving personal and collective stories into their writing. 

Workshops and Cultural Exploration
Beyond Working Group meetings and General Assemblies, the conference offered a variety of workshops and cultural activities. Tailor-made training sessions for academics on mental health, non-violent communication, and social media literacy took place at ‘Refugio’ in Berlin-Neukölln, allowing participants to enhance their skills. A walking tour through the Neukölln and Kreuzberg districts, led by Arabist Dr. Bettina Gräf, provided insights into Berlin's vibrant Arabic and Islamic heritage while offering networking opportunities with the local academic community.

Scientific excursions further enriched the conference experience. A guided tour highlighted Berlin's historical division between East and West, while a visit to the Futurium, Berlin’s ‘House of Futures’, offered a glimpse into technological and societal advancements to come.
This week of engaging discussions and encounters was an impressive reflection of AGYA's growing network and strong community of dedicated young leaders. Looking back on the past decade, the AGYA family gained inspiration for the next 10 years and beyond.

At this conference and over the past ten years at AGYA, I have come together with highly qualified creative minds from the Arab world and Germany. I have made real friendships that have enriched me personally and professionally and form the basis for future research collaboration.

Tarek Tawfik, AGYA alumnus