Prof. Jan Of at German University in Cairo, Egypt
Through the contact of one of my former students from the Master of Arts in Design & Future Making, Amina el Shazly, I was invited by Sabine Müller, dean to the faculty for Design at the German University in Cairo (GUC) as an external examiner for the bachelor examinations in the field of product design.
Lecturers and alumni of the Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences have already had various personal contacts with the GUC, and they were also significantly involved in setting up the faculty there and their workshops.
After my arrival, I met Amina early in the morning in the Zamalek district, from where our first detour led to the Pyramids of Giza, which are extremely impressive in terms of their size and, above all, their age, as well as the Sphinx, which I actually found smaller than my original impression from pictures was. We then drove to the Mohammed Ali Mosque on the citadel and visited other historic mosques nearby.
On our next stop, we visited Old Cairo and delved into the Khan el Khalili Bazaar, where we enjoyed a wonderful café that pays tribute to Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz. Refreshed we let other historical sights work on us. Wonderful mosques and residences, a hammam, underground irrigation systems and a historic hospital that impressed me for its social importance and medical advances of the time.
Amina's accompaniment opened up very personal spaces and experiences that I would not have seen as an ordinary tourist. Amina explained a lot of things to me about everyday Egyptian culture and many special features, also in comparison to Germany. In particular, the traffic and the streetscape in Cairo made a particularly strong impression on me as a German automotive designer and once again confirmed how important it is to gather certain experiences and impressions on site instead of via desk research.
The next day I went to the GUC, where I was welcomed by Nikolai Burger, the professor responsible for the Product Design department. I was able to see many exciting theses, which often dealt with sustainability or social responsibility in their subject areas and were very close to the interests of my students in Germany. Finally, Nikolai took me around the campus and showed me workshops, laboratories and machines. I was particularly impressed by the large machine halls equipped with highly professional and modern large-scale woodworking and metalworking equipment. But also the smaller workshops from the areas of pottery or graphics were very interesting and worth seeing.
The evening came to a wonderful end in a very nice restaurant, right on the Nile, where I was once again spoiled with delicacies from the Arabic kitchen and an incredible view.
The last day of my trip to Egypt took me to the GUC, where I was once again allowed to evaluate projects as an external examiner. I then gave a lecture on the subject of design and artificial intelligence and presented Pforzheim University and its special skills. This evening also ended with a tour of Cairo and a nice dinner.
The trip to Egypt impressed me with the cultural insights, the hospitality but also the high level of the GUC and I hope to be able to travel to Cairo again soon.