Friday,25 May, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)
Friday,25 May, 2018
Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Dean of Graeco-Roman studies

Obituary: Mustafa Al-Abbadi (1928-2017)

Mustafa Al-Abbadi
Mustafa Al-Abbadi

Egypt and the academic world as a whole is mourning the passing of a leading figure in historical studies and one of the few scholars who pointed the way to discovering Egypt’s glorious as well as unfortunately not very well-known past.

In February, Mustafa Al-Abbadi, dean of Graeco-Roman studies in Egypt and one of the most distinguished Egyptian intellectuals and pioneers, passed away in Alexandria at the age of 89.

Al-Abbadi was born on 10 October 1928 in Alexandria. He received his BA in Classics from Alexandria University in 1951, going on to obtain a further BA and PhD from the University of Cambridge in the UK in 1961. He then joined the Department of Classics at the Faculty of Arts at Alexandria University as an assistant professor, becoming a full professor in 1972 and chair of the university’s Department of Classics in the same year.

He was promoted to become vice dean for student affairs at the Faculty of Arts at Alexandria University from 1976 to 1979. He was later an emeritus professor of Classics at Alexandria University. He received many awards during his long career, including the Order of the Nile in Social Studies in 2013, Egypt’s State Award in 1998, and the Graeco-Egyptian poet Constantine P Cavafy Award in Greek Studies in 1997. He held an honorary doctorate from the Université du Québec in Montreal in Canada.

Al-Abbadi was a very active member of several academic and professional societies and institutions in Egypt and abroad. He was a member of l’Institut d’Égypte, the Supreme Council of Culture, and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), among other institutions. He also served as president of the Archaeological Society of Alexandria and was an advisor to UNESCO.

He had many achievements to his name, but his work to revive the ancient Library of Alexandria to become a world-class research centre, a project embraced by UNESCO in 1986 and later opened in 2003, was one of his most important and one that led to his worldwide fame. He was the author of many scientific books and articles in English and Arabic, some of them published in multiple editions and including What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria? (Leiden: 2008), The Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria (Paris: 1990, 1992, and 1999), and Alexandria: Site and History (New York: 1993).

Al-Abbadi founded an important school of Graeco-Roman studies in Egypt and the Arab world, and it was one that was recognised internationally. His students dedicated a wonderful volume of essays to him in honour of his achievements entitled Alexandrian Studies in Honour of Mustafa Al-Abbadi and published by the Société archéologique d’Alexandrie in 2000.

I personally met Al-Abbadi many times on the Giza Plateau and at the SCA headquarters in Zamalek in Cairo and always found him to be unfailingly helpful and pleasant, as well as modest and intellectually inspiring. He will be sorely missed, but his huge intellectual and human legacy will remain with us forever.

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