Student Writing on Board

The Near East, named as "the cradle of civilization," is the birth place of major languages, religions, and philosophical movements. It is a region of layered histories and diverse cultures. The Department of Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures is devoted to teaching and research of the Near and Middle East, including Central Asia, tracing contemporary manifestations, their medieval roots, and the significance of these within the history of world civilizations.



Rhodes Scholar


Established in 1969 by Professor Farhat Ziadeh, the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures offers BA and MA degree programs that investigate major literary and cultural traditions of the Near East, Central Eurasia, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. The Department provides excellent training in languages and cultivates an appreciation and understanding of historical and cultural traditions among various communities in the region. Undergraduates can select from degree options concentrating in Languages and Civilization; Culture and Civilization; Comparative Islamic Studies; and Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Language minors are available in Arabic, Modern Hebrew, Persian, Turkic, and Turkish.

Languages taught in MELC — Arabic, Persian, Tajik, Turkish (Modern and Ottoman), and Central Asian Turkic (such as Uzbek, Kazak, Kyrgyz, and Uygur) — are languages of the most significant manifestations of Islamic civilization. Hebrew and Aramaic are languages of the Bible and are central to Judaism and Jewish culture. A rich and vast heritage from other ancient Near Eastern cultures is explored through the study of languages and literatures such as Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Syriac, and Classical Ethiopic.

MELC serves a broad spectrum of undergraduates, including those with plans to acquire specific linguistic and cultural proficiencies and those simply interested in the histories and cultures of the regions covered in our curriculum and research.  MELC graduates have continued on to successful careers in diverse fields including tech, law, medicine, government, and education, as well as to advanced degrees in the humanities and social sciences.

Our department participates in study abroad programs, sending UW students for language and cultural study and research to a variety of locations — from North Africa to the Middle East, and across Central Eurasia — and training many students from institutions overseas.


Autumn 2021

  • 22 Undergraduate majors
  • 8 Undergraduate minors
  • 4 Master of Arts students

Degrees Awarded

Sept 2020 - Aug 2021

  • 9 Bachelor of Arts degrees
  • 9 Minor degrees

Major Student Awards

Since 2015

  • 1 UW President’s Medalist
  • 1 UW Medalist for High Scholarship
  • 1 UW Arts & Sciences Dean's Medalist
  • 1 Irene Dickson McFarlane Tuition Scholarship
  • 4 Schwartz Fellows for Study Abroad
  • 4 Roshan Institute Fellows for Excellence in Persian Studies
  • 5 Naficy Scholars in Persian Studies
  • 5 Turkish and Ottoman Literature Endowed Fellows
  • 4 Hooshang Afrassiabi Essay Award
  • 29 Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellows
  • 4 Easa Bateh Fellows


Annual events hosted by MELC include the Farhat J. Ziadeh Distinguished Lectureship in Arab and Islamic Studies and the Hooshang Afrassiabi Distinguished Lectureship in Persian Studies. These lecture series bring renowned speakers from around the world to speak to MELC students and the greater University of Washington community. Additional lectures and cultural presentations are supported by the Turkish Studies Endowment, the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East Fund, the Ravani Endowment, and the Friends of Persian Studies Fund.

Programs and cultural activities are presented throughout the year by the Central Asian Turkic Languages and Culture Circle, the Persian Circle, and other student interest groups.


Autumn 2021

  • 3 Professors
  • 3 Associate Professors
  • 1 Associate Teaching Professor
  • 2 Assistant Professors
  • 4 Assistant Teaching Professors
  • 1 Visiting Senior Lecturer
  • 12 Adjunct Faculty
  • 4 Affiliate Faculty
  • 3 Emeritus Faculty

Faculty awards and leadership roles, past and present, include:

  • Undergraduate Research Mentor Award
  • Katz Fellow in Advanced Judaic Studies
  • Royalty Research Fund Scholar Award
  • Honorary Ph.D. in Letters from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • National Jewish Book Award
  • Advisory Board Member, Peyvand NPO
  • Chair, SIFF-Iranian Film Initiative
  • Advisory Board Member, IACA-Iranian-American Community Alliance
  • Associate Editor, Review of Middle East Studies
  • Editorial Board Member, Modern Language Quarterly
  • Editorial Board Member, Prooftexts
  • Deputy Editor, Iranian Studies
  • Co-organizer, The Pacific Northwest Adab Society
  • Fulbright Scholars
  • National Endowment for the Humanities grants
  • Fellows, American Research Center in Egypt
  • Senior Fellow, American Center for Oriental Research
  • Presidents, Middle East Studies Association
  • President, Society for Iranian Studies
  • President, Middle East Medievalists
  • President, Pacific NW American Research Center in Egypt
  • President, Pacific NW American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature
  • Director, American Research Center in Egypt
  • Director, Center for Arabic Study Abroad
  • Samuel and Althea Stroum Chair
  • Mentor Award, Middle East Studies Association
  • Service Award, Middle East Studies Association
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships


MELC faculty are engaged in a wide variety of individual research endeavors with emphases including post-colonial theory, intercultural exchange, literature as performance, archeology and culture of archaeology, gender theory, political literature and politics of literature, literary dynamics in exilic or diaspora communities, children’s literatures, linguistics, legal theory, and comparative religion. Departmental research on Jewish, Christian, and Islamic literatures and cultures is characterized by the study of these not as isolated entities, but rather as integral to wider Near Eastern cultural developments.

Faculty in MELC have been leaders in numerous national and international team research projects including:

  • The Ottoman Text Archive Project, an international effort to make a vast collection of documents crucial to understanding the history and cultural heritage of the Ottoman Empire accessible in a central web-based text archive; for which a pilot project, The Baki Divan Project: Digital Approaches to Ottoman, was awarded $40,000 from the Royalty Research Fund (RRF) to archive and analyze the Divan (Collected Works) of the Ottoman poet Mahmud Abdulbaki, or Baki (1520-1600).
  • The Newbook Project that establishes a digital archive and a publishing platform for manuscripts related to the Near and Middle East Studies.
  • Turkey in Seattle: Oral History Project, a project to archive the immigration stories of people who came to the Pacific Northwest from Turkey.
  • Federally-funded grants for innovative Arabic distance learning programs.
  • National grant initiatives to develop more effective and advanced pedagogies for proficiency in Arabic and Persian.
  • Organizing and hosting international conferences including Writing the Iranian Revolution: Memory, Testimony, Time (2017); The Many Poems of Baki (2017) ; Symposium on China’s Turkic Muslims (2019); and Workshop on Contemporary China’s Turkic Frontier Zone (2021).

Areas of Scholarship

  • Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
  • Modern Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Ottoman, Turkish and Turkic Languages, Literatures and Cultures
  • Hebrew Bible
  • Judaism in Late Antiquity
  • Ancient Christianity and Religions of Antiquity
  • Islamic Institutions, Philosophy, Religion, History
  • Comparative Religion
  • Coptic Language
  • Cultures of Near Eastern Archaeology
  • Linguistics and Near Eastern Studies
  • History of the Middle East

Scholarships & Fellowships

  • Bateh Scholarship in Arabic Studies
  • Paul LeRoy Award in Egyptological Studies
  • Hooshang Afrassiabi Student Prize in Persian Studies
  • Naficy Family Fellowship in Persian Studies
  • Friends of Persian Studies Student Fellowship
  • Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute Fellowship
  • Graduate Fellowship in Persian Studies
  • Maurice and Lois Schwartz Fellowship for Study Abroad
  • Michael A. Williams Scholarship for Excellence in Near Eastern Studies
  • Turkish and Ottoman Literary Fellowship Award


Department of Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures
Box 353120
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 543-6033

last update: September 2022