Classes in Modern Standard Arabic, Classical Texts and Grammar were specially devised for the IIS by the American Language Institute in Fez (ALIF), a centre providing Arabic tuition for many institutions internationally as well as for Fulbright scholars.
Fez is host to a wealth of history, art, music and the diverse traditions of the Arabs, Berbers and French who live there. The city has a rich mediaeval heritage as well as a sense of the modern, as can be witnessed in the Ville Nouvelle with its café-lined boulevards, cinemas and apartment blocks. In the old medina, whose cobbled, winding streets have not changed much in a thousand years, the aroma of street food vendors mixes strongly with the scent of leather, spices, wool and the myriad of other items that are sold in the many shops and stalls.
ALIF itself, set in a colonial villa in the modern quarter, presented a picturesque environment for study and offered a lively academic atmosphere. After classes, there were many evening lectures on topics ranging from Sufism to the Berber Musical tradition. On arriving in Fez, the class of 2003 also received a special talk on Moroccan culture to help them adjust to their new surroundings. Students had the opportunity not only to discover Fez, but also Marrakech and Rabat, experiencing many facets of Moroccan life and culture whilst improving their proficiency in Arabic.
From reports of students and their tutors, the collaborative programme was a great success. Aziz Ali Dad, a graduate student from Pakistan, said that in addition to a marked improvement in his confidence and literacy, he was able to recognize the richness of Arabic as well as its influence on both Persian and Urdu. Many of the students felt that they had made considerable improvements in their understanding of the language and important classical texts. They also welcomed the chance to experience the rich traditions of Arabic culture that were offered in Morocco.
In recent years, Graduate Students have participated in similar Arabic summer programmes in Egypt and Yemen.