Nasser Rabbat

Professor and Director of the MIT Aga Khan Program

Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT.  His interests include Islamic architecture, urban history, heritage studies, Arab history, contemporary Islamic art, and post-colonial criticism.  He teaches lecture courses on Islamic architecture, the architecture of Cairo, and Islamic architecture and the environment and seminars on Orientalism and colonialism; Issues in Islamic Urbanism; Historiography of Islamic Architecture; Late Antiquity and the foundation of Islamic architecture; Reading Ibn Khaldun; (Re)constructing Memory; Urbicide; and Balancing Globalism and Regionalism in the Arabian Gulf cities.

Professor Rabbat has published more than a hundred scholarly articles and several books on topics ranging from Mamluk architecture to Antique Syria, 19th century Cairo, Orientalism, and urbicide.  His most recent books are Writing Egypt: Al-Maqrizi and His Historical Project (2022); ‘Imarat al-Mudun al-Mayyita (The Architecture of the Dead Cities) (2018), and an online book, The Destruction of Cultural Heritage: From Napoléon to ISIS, co-edited with Pamela Karimi (2016).  His co-edited book, Construction as Destruction: The Case of Syria will be published in 2023 by AUC Press.  He is currently editing a book on the cultural history of Syria to be published by Edinburgh University Press.  His next book project is a history of Mamluk Cairo, which is under contract with AUC Press.

He has previously published: al-Naqd Iltizaman (Criticism as Commitment) (2015), Mamluk History Through Architecture: Building, Culture, and Politics in Mamluk Egypt and Syria (2010), which won the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize in Middle Eastern Studies, 2011, Thaqafat al Bina’ wa Bina’ al-Thaqafa (The Culture of Building and Building Culture) (2002), and The Citadel of Cairo: A New Interpretation of Royal Mamluk Architecture (1995). He edited The Courtyard House between Cultural Reference and Universal Relevance (2011), co-edited Making Cairo Medieval (2005), and co-authored Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (2001). 

Prof. Rabbat worked as an architect in Los Angeles and Damascus and held several academic appointments at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich; École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris; and New York University in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  He has received various awards and fellowships from the J. Paul Getty Center, Los Angeles; the Villa I Tatti, Florence; the American Academy in Rome; the Institut d’études avancées, Paris; the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg, University of Bonn; the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Cambridge, MA; the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE); the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO), Cairo; and l’Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA), Paris.  He contributes to several Arabic newspapers, serves on the boards of various cultural and educational organizations, and consults with international design firms on projects in the Islamic World.  Professor Rabbat served as a member of the 2019 and the 2022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Steering Committees

1991 Doctoral Dissertation: The Citadel of Cairo, 1176-1341: Reconstructing Architecture from Texts, revised and published as The Citadel of Cairo: A New Interpretation of Royal Mamluk Architecture.