BA Film Studies and Arabic

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa

Course unit fact file
Unit code MEST10092
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The study of the cultures of the Middle East and Africa (MENA) is the main focus of this course. Starting with a set of lectures on the meaning of culture and an insight into the specificity of the region in terms of land, people and their social customs, the course will then focus on the MENA family and will examine gender roles in both the public and private spheres, the role of patriarchy in shaping gender roles and family ties, and the region’s never ending dilemma of struggling between tradition and modernity.

Other topics include marriage as a site of cultural celebrations, New year celebrations with case studies from Israel (Rosh Hashanah) and Iran (Nowruz); Male circumcision as practiced in the MENA according to Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions; the celebrations of Muslim religious festivals including the Mawlid (Prophet Mohammed’s birthday). The Hajj (Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca), will also be studied with a focus on how local cultures influence religious practice. The course will also look into Karbala and the passion of Hussein. 


It is the aim of this course to: 

  • Introduce students to the study of the cultures of a rapidly changing Middle East and North Africa from a multidisciplinary angle. 
  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of MENA cultures from a multidisciplinary perspective.
  • Debunk preconceived stereotypical ideas they might have acquired through the media about a region mostly typified as an area rife with conflict and not as a land of rich and diverse cultures.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Gain knowledge of the cultures of the diverse and ever changing MENA societies
  • Gain an informed understanding of the MENA region and its people beyond media stereotypes 
  • Understand and discuss theoretical issues behind the study of MENA cultures from a multidisciplinary angle
  • Have appropriate command of key concepts and terminologies related to the multidisciplinary study of MENA cultures



Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Gain a good understanding about the diversity and wealth of MENA cultures and societies 
  • Gain a good understanding of the resistance of cultures to religions, and how the former influence the latter, 
  • Build awareness about the diversity, which distinguishes the MENA as well as its Cultures, religions and populations.
  • Gain access to the study of a range of specialist areas within the discipline.


Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Develop their analytical and critical thinking 
  • Gain skills in synthesis and analysis of data and information
  • Develop advanced skills of written and verbal communication
  • Improve their abilities of organization and expression of ideas


Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Increase their discussion and debating ethics
  • Use library, electronic and online resources
  • Improve their reporting skills
  • Develop their group ethos
  • Engage in self and peer review/evaluation

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Gain skills in independent learning.
  • Develop their abilities in co-operative learning and team work.
  • Develop their time management and punctuality skills
  • Gain skills in debating and presentation 
  • Apply Subject Knowledge 
  • Understand group dynamics and intercultural backgrounds in the use of negotiating skills to reach objectives.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critical thinking and analytical skills
Group/team working
Discussion and debating ethics
Organisation and expression of ideas
Project management
Time management and punctuality
Oral communication
Presentation skills

Assessment methods

Essay - 70%

Seminar presentation - 30%

Feedback methods

Written and oral feedback on seminar presentations

Written feedback on essay

Additional one-to-one feedback: Lecturer’s 2 weekly office hours are the chief venue for feedback. This is a walk-in, i.e., no prior appointment is required.


Recommended reading

  1. Herzig, S., Jewish Culture and Customs, Bellwamr, 2012. 
  2. Khalaf, S., & R.S. Khalaf, Arab Society and Culture: An essential guide, London: Saqi Books, 2010.
  3. Koultaki, S., Among the Iranians: A Guide to Iran's Culture and Customs, Intercultural Press, 2010.
  4. Mir-Hosseini, Z., Marriage on Trial:  A study of Islamic family law, I.B. Tauris, 1993.
  5. Rosen, L., The Culture of Islam: Changing Aspects of Contemporary Muslim Life, The University of Chicago Press, 2002.
  6. Triandis, H. C., Culture and Social Behavior. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Zahia Smail Salhi Unit coordinator

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