Skip to main content

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Arabic Studies

The Arabic language was taught at the Jagiellonian University as early as in the years 1818-1826 under the direction of Wilhelm Münnich - a German scholar. However, with his departure the department of oriental languages ​​was closed.

The revival of Arabic studies is associated with professor Tadeusz Kowalski. In 1919 he was entrusted with the leadership of the first department of Oriental philology in independent Poland, and then in 1921 - the Oriental Philology Seminary. He was a Renaissance man in the full sense of the word; his research interests covered a wide range of Oriental studies.

The continuation of the history of Arabic studies in Kraków is associated with such prominent scholars as professors Tadeusz Lewicki, Andrzej Czapkiewicz, Maria Kowalska and Andrzej Zaborski, whose research interests far exceeded the narrowly understood Arabic philology. For this reason, the scope of academic work at the department included African, Semitic and Islamic, studies as well as the history, geography and ethnography of the area.

Currently, we present to our students a rich educational offer including contemporary standard Arabic and Arabic dialects, a second Semitic language (Hebrew), as well as philological education in both literary studies and linguistic varieties.

We have also enriched our educational offer with current issues regarding Islamic civilization, culture, history, geography and social problems in Arab societies.

Currently, the team of the Department of Arabic Studies of the Jagiellonian University includes:

The research areas of the employees of the Department of Arabic Studies are:


• Contemporary Arabic literature

• Theatre and drama in the Arab world

• Adab literature of the Abbasid period

• Poetry of the pre-Muslim period

• Problems of the Bible translation

• Syntax of the modern Hebrew language

• Contrastive analysis of Polish and Hebrew

• Grammar and didactics of the Arabic language

• Sociolinguistics of the Arab world and Arabic dialectology

• Language nationalisms in the Arab world

• History of the Middle East

• Arabic sources for the history of crusades

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Department of Oriental Sources and Numismatics of the Institute of Oriental Studies

The Oriental Sources and Numismatics Department was first established in 1954 as the Department of Numismatics of the Institute of History and Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). Its objective was to carry out comprehensive studies on coin hoards deposited in the territory of Poland since antiquity.

The founder of the Department of Numismatics, Professor Tadeusz Lewicki, a historian of Antiquity and the Middle Ages, but also an eminent Orientalist and Arabist, pioneered research on oriental coins already present  in Polish museums and other cultural and scientific institutions, as well as those which had been  found in Poland and neighbouring countries. He was the first to recognize the importance of mediaeval Arabic coins as a source for the early history of the  Polish State.

Despite initial difficulties, the Department soon became a leading numismatics unit in Europe, and, at that time, the only one in the field of oriental numismatics. In the first 15 years of its existence, the Department published 8 major monographs on Arabic silver hoards on Polish territory, as well as almost a 100 minor articles on the subject. The Department of Numismatics started its own collection which, by the year 1969, consisted of over 830 Antique, Byzantine, European and Oriental coins, the most valuable of which were 306 whole dirhams from Drohiczyn on the Bug river – a rarity, since in most silver hoards the dirhams were fractional.

In 1969 the Department of Numismatics was transferred from the Polish Academy of Sciences to the Jagiellonian University, becoming part of the Chair of Oriental Philology (later known as the Institute of Oriental Studies). At that time its name was changed to the Department of Oriental Sources and Numismatics as it simultaneously undertook systematic studies of oriental written sources for  the history of Slavonic countries, as well as sources for the beginnings of Arabic grammar and linguistics.

The research of written sources resulted in the publication of 4 volumes of “Arabic Sources to the History of Slavonic Countries”, a monograph on Slavonic culture and a great number of articles on various aspects of the history and culture of the Slavonic peoples.

In 2012, after 58 years of continuous scientific activity, the Oriental Sources and Numismatics Department was shut down by the University authorities.

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Biographical entries

The Polish scholar, Andrzej Czapkiewicz, was a specialist in Arabic and Semitic linguistics. He was born in Tarnów, on July 3, 1924, in the family of a secondary school professor. His early education was interrupted by the outbreak of the second world war. Arrested by the Gestapo for his involvement in the resistance movement in 1943, he was sent to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. After the liberation of the camp by the American forces in 1945 he worked his way to Italy where he joined the Polish Armed Forces. In the same year he found himself in England and it was here that he completed the first stage of his secondary education. On his return to Poland in 1947 he continued his education in Kraków  and in 1948 he received his diploma at the Nowodworski Secondary School. In 1948 – 1952 he studied Arabic philology in the Department of Oriental Studies at the Jagiellonian University under the supervision of the outstanding arabist and historian, Professor Tadeusz Lewicki. In 1952 he took up the job of an assistant at the Department and it was there that he continued his academic career and received the doctor’s degree (1964) and the degree of doctor habilitatus (1975). His professorial nomination came in 1985.

In 1976, after the retirement of Professor Lewicki, Andrzej Czapkiewicz assumed the office of the head of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Jagiellonian University. One of his most significant contributions as an administrator was the opening of the Japanese studies programme at the institute (1987), which widened the range of Oriental languages taught at the Jagiellonian University. At the same time he held the post of the head of the Department of Arabic Studies as well as the Department of Oriental Sources and Numismatics, actively participating in research conducted in both units.

Professor Czapkiewicz was a dedicated teacher and mentor. He supervised numerous M.A. theses and two doctor dissertations, willingly assisting the candidates in conquering new fields of knowledge, sharing with them his invaluable experience. He was a demanding teacher but at the same time very devoted to his students. To facilitate their studies he wrote a handbook of the Arabic language (with Ali Mekki, 1977) and published an anthology of specialist texts (with Elżbieta Górska, 1982).

The academic research of A. Czapkiewicz is recognised not only in Poland but also abroad. He is the author of six monographs, the most important being: (1) Ancient Egyptian and Coptic Elements in the Toponymy of Contemporary Egypt, 1971; (2) The Verb in Modern Arabic Dialects as an Exponent of the Development Processes Occurring in Them, 1975; (3) Arabic Idioms, 1983; (4) The Views of the Medieval Arab Philologists on Language and Its Origin in the Light of As-Suyūṭi’s “Al-Muzhir”,1988. A full list of other publications, containing articles, handbooks, translation works and reviews can be found in:  Górska E. Bibliography. Works of Professor Andrzej Czapkiewicz, „Folia Orientalia” XXVIII, 1991, pp. 9-12, and Dziekan M., Poniatowski Z. A bibliography of Arabic and Islamic studies in Poland (1945-1992), Warszawa 1993. His work initiated and defined a new style of linguistic researches in Arabic studies in Poland and has been highly appreciated by international specialists.

A. Czapkiewicz participated in numerous conferences, symposia and congresses. He delivered lectures at many foreign universities and he was a member of many academic societies – among others, of the Oriental Studies Committee of the Polish Academy of Science, and of the Middle Eastern Studies Association in New York. In recognition of his merits in both didactics and research he was awarded the highest national medals and distinctions (Złoty Krzyż Zasługi, 1974 and Krzyż Kawalerski, 1983). The prize of the Ministry of Municipal Economy was rewarded to him for his cooperation with Polish architects working on the town development project for Baghdad.

On March 1, 1990 Professor Andrzej Czapkiewicz died unexpectedly from a brain-stroke that caught him in the middle of his usual activities as he climbed the staircase of Collegium Novum. His untimely death was a painful and irreparable blow to his family – two sons, Bartłomiej and Grzegorz, and his wife Maria, an arabist specializing in Arabic numismatics, who died in 1992. The whole circle of Krakow orientalists, especially his disciples and co-workers, were left without a mentor. Some of them continue his line of research in their academic careers; all remember the Professor with highest respect and gratitude.

[Based on: Górska E. Professor Andrzej Czapkiewicz (1924-1990) [in:] „Folia Orientalia” t.XXVIII, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1992, pp. 5-6, and Górska E. Andrzej Czapkiewicz (1924-1990) [in:] Złota Księga Wydziału Filologicznego UJ, eds. J.Michalik, W.Walecki, Księgarnia Akademicka, Kraków 2000, pp. 708-713]  

Maria Kowalska (19.06.1919 - 10.02.2005)

Professor Maria Kowalska was born on the 19th of June 1919 in Sędziszów Małopolski. She began her Arabic studies in 1951 under the guidance of Professor Tadeusz Lewicki. From the very start her interests were concentrated around Arabic geographic and travel literature of the Middle Ages. In 1965 she defended her PhD thesis: The History of al-Qazwini’s  up to Athar al-Bilad. In 1973 she obtained her post-doctorial degree (habilitation) on the basis of the work entitled Medieval Arabic Travel Literature (Warsaw-Cracow 1973) in which she dealt with the persons and stories of eminent Arab travelers of the Middle Ages. Professor Kowalska herein described various aspects of the formulation of genres within so-called travel literature. Here are works purely documentary in character as there are those imbued with a heavy dose of fantasy. The book became a classic amongst students of Arabic.

Her second work in this field was the translation, commentary and analysis of a fragment of Makarius Bulus Ibn Makarius entitled: The Ukraine in the mid Seventeenth Century in the Accounts of the Arab Adventurer Bulus, son of Makariyus al-Halabi (Warsaw 1986). This translated and analyzed description of the Ukraine is a valuable relic of Arabic literature from the mid seventeenth century. It came into existence as a result of Makarius, the Antioch Patriarch’s, journey from Aleppo to Moscow. Bulus, Makarius’s son, the author, and at the same time a participant in the expedition noted in his diary many interesting items that concerned the everyday life of the inhabitants of the Ukraine. The entirety is supplemented by information on sacral architecture. This work by Professor Kowalska is not only an important geographical source but also a work that relates to the political history of Moldova, the Woloszczyn region, the Ukraine and Russia.

In 1985 Professor Kowalska obtained the title of professor.

It is important to note the importance of Professor Kowalska as a teacher and organizer of academic matters. Despite having retired and suffering from poor health as the result of a number of heart attacks, she worked on until she was 81 conducting MA tutorial classes for the senior years of Arabic. She was the tutor and reviewer for many, many MA dissertations, PhD theses, post-doctorial theses and professorship applications. For many years she was in charge of the Arabic department (1994-1999) as well as heading the Numismatics and Oriental Sources units.

She involved herself in the work of the Polish Oriental Association, heading the Cracow branch from 1975 until 1989. She was a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Academic Committee and the international L’Union Euopeenne des Arabistant et Islamisants, participating regularly at their congresses right up to 1994.

Professor Maria Kowalska received numerous awards and professional recognition for her service to science and culture receiving the Golden Cross of Service in 1976, the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polish Restoration in 1986, and the Medal of the National Education Commission in the year 2001.         

Tadeusz Lewicki, one of the most famous Polish scholars of Oriental studies and a top expert on Ibadi branch of Islam, was born and grew up in Lviv (Polish: Lwów, present day Ukraine) on 29 January 1906. After having attended the King Casimir the Great Grammar School he studied law and oriental languages at the Humanistic Faculty of the Jan Kazimierz  University in Lwów. In 1931 he received the doctor of philosophy degree, presenting his dissertation on the history of North Africa in the early medieval period, written under the supervision of Professor  Zygmunt Smogorzewski. He was employed at the Department of Oriental Studies and then, after the death of Smogorzewski, at the Department of Ancient History of the Jan Kazimierz University.

During the World War II Lewicki was engaged in underground activities against the German-Nazi occupants, fighting in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). In 1944 he fought in the Warsaw Uprising, was captured by the Wehrmacht and interned in the Officers’ Camp in Murnau (Bavaria). After the liberation of the camp by the American Forces, Lewicki joined the Polish Army of General Anders in Italy and was finally evacuated to England.

In 1947 he returned to Poland and was employed in the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (Polska Akademia Umiejętności) in Kraków. After the death of professor Tadeusz Kowalski in 1948 Lewicki was appointed Head of the Department of Oriental Philology (which in 1972 was renamed as the Institute of Oriental Philology). In 1949 he received the degree of doctor habilitus on the basis of the thesis on Poland and Neighbouring Countries as described by the Arabian Geographer al-Idrīsī in the Book of Roger. In 1954 he was appointed as professor and in 1961 Lewicki received the title of full professor.

Beside his work at the Jagiellonian University, both scientific and didactic, Lewicki was Head of the Department of Numismatics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) (later transferred to the Institute of Oriental Philology at the Jagiellonian University). He was also the Dean of the Faculty of Philology (1960-1962).

His areas of interest included the material, social and religious history of Africa and Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the history of the Ibadites, a moderate branch of the Kharijite movement. In all those fields he was a well- recognized scholar and a valued specialist.

On Lewicki’s initiative the Committee on Oriental Studies of the Cracow branch of Polish Academy of Sciences was established and he held its chair for many years. In 1959 he founded “Folia Orientalia” and was the editor-in-chief of this periodical. In the years 1958–1962 and 1966–1980 he was the chairman of the Polish Oriental Society. He also belonged to numerous international societies: Académie des Sciences d’Outre-Mer, Royal Asiatic Society, Association Internationale d’Etudes des Civilisations Méditerranéennes and others.

Tadeusz Lewicki retired in 1976 but he continued his studies until his death in 1992.

In recognition of his achievements Tadeusz Lewicki was granted the Doctor Honoris Causa degree by Wrocław University in 1986. He was also awarded many prizes: Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, the Gold Cross of Merit, the National Education Commission Medal and others.

Lewicki is the author of more than 470 publications, among which are such outstanding works, as Études ibadites nord-africaines (parts I and II), Arabic

External Sources for the History of Africa to the South of Sahara, Wrocław 1969; Polska i kraje sąsiednie w świetle “Księgi Rogera” geografa arabskiego z XII w. al-Idrīsī’eg (parts 1–2), Źródła arabskie do dziejów Słowiańszczyzny, vols. 1–4, West African Food in the Middle Ages: According to Arabic Sources and many others.



Roman Stopa was one of the most recognizable Polish Africanists in the world in the XXth century. He was a student of the renowned Polish linguist, Jan Michał Rozwadowski.

He was born on July 8, 1895 in Wola Batorska, near Bochnia. He died in Kraków on April 15, 1995.  Roman Stopa began his studies in classical philology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków in 1915. He obtained his PhD in Indo-European linguistics in 1927. He received his habilitation in African linguistics in 1936 at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lviv (Polish Lwów, now in Ukraine). He became a full professor in 1962.

His research output contains many various works related to broadly understood African studies, ethnology, comparative musicology, and linguistics (including, among others, click sounds, sound symbolism, and origin of language).

For many years Roman Stopa taught Khoisan languages, Ewe language, Hausa, and Swahili in the Seminary of Oriental Philology (later: Institute of Oriental Philology) at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

Selected works:

1933 Die Schnalze, Ihre Natur, Entwicklung und Ursprung, Kraków, Bulletin de l'Académie Polonaise des Sciences et des Lettres.

1936 Teksty hotentockie (Hai-/omn i nama), Kraków, Polska Akademia Umiejętności, Prace Komisji Orientalistycznej.

1956 Powstanie mowy ludzkiej w oświetleniu antropologii i językoznawstwa, Wrocław, s.n.

1960 The Evolution of Click Sounds in Some African Languages, Kraków, Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego. Rozprawy i Studia, t. 25.

1993 Studies in African languages: (essays on phonetics, semiotics and meaning), ed. Magdalena Lohman, Kraków, Universitas.



Zbigniew Maśka was born in Hajduki Wielkie (now known as Chorzów) on December 21, 1930. The time during the Nazi occupation he spent in Silesia. After the war his parents insisted on him to enter the Faculty of Medicine at the Jagiellonian University. In 1950 he passed the entrance exams but the same year he left the University due to health issues. In 1951 Zbigniew Maśka started his oriental studies and that move was the result of his own interest and fascination.  He graduated in 1955 with a Master’s Degree in Oriental Philology. The same year he started his academic career as an assistant  and continued to develop his interest particularly in Hausa language and folklore. He was twice in Nigeria  to carry out scientific research on Hausa. In Poland he took part in the first complete translation of The Arabian Nights.

Zbigniew Maśka  died on April 4, 2013 in Chorzów.

Professor Andrzej Zaborski was born on 7th October 1942 in Cracow as a son of Roman Zaborski (a lawyer) and Bolesława Zaborska (a teacher). He got his high school diploma in 1960 in Jan Kochanowski High School no. 3 in Cracow. In July 1960 he began his studies in the Department of Oriental Philology of the Jagellonian University.  His field of studies was Arabic philology. In 1965 he got his MA diploma with the thesis entitled  "Medieval  History  of the Beja Tribes According  to Arabic  Sources". In 1967 Andrzej Zaborski got a position of assistant in his parent institute. In 1969 he got his Ph.D. degree with the thesis entitled "Biconsonantal  Verbal  Roots  in Semitic", written under the supervision of Jerzy Kuryłowicz. The thesis was published as two articles in 1970-71. In 1976 Andrzej Zaborski got his habilitation degree on the basis of the book "The Verb in Cushitic". The reviewers were  Robert  Hetzron,  Karel  Petraćek  and Jerzy  Kuryłowicz. In 1978 Andrzej Zaborski got the position of associate professor at the Jagellonian University. He taught Arabic and Semitic linguistics. In  1978-1979  he spent three months  on a Syrian  scholarship   in Damascus . In 1982 he visited Algeria. In  1984 he conducted  field work on Dahalo  language in Lamu,  Kenya. In 1989 he conducted  two month  field work on Beja, Nubian  and  other  languages  of the  Sudan  in Khartoum,  Port  Sudan and Kassala. Andrzej Zaborski cooperated with European universities. He was visiting professor in the Institute  of African  Studies of the University of Vienna, where he taught Somali and Oromo languages. Thanks to the Humboldt Foundation Scholarship he spent almost two years  in the  Institute of African  Studies of the University of Cologne. He also lectured at the universities of Heidelberg, Torino, Udine and Mainz. The academic year 1990-1991 he spent in Jerusalem, invited as a member of  the Institute  for Advanced  Studies of the Hebrew University, giving lectures in the research group 'The Living Semitic Languages and Comparative Semitics'. In 1984 Andrzej Zaborski got his second habilitation in African  studies  at the  University  of Vienna. He lectured at that university in the years 1984-1999, teaching Somali, Oromo, Beja, Amharic,  Tuareg,  Masai  and other languages as well as Afroasiatic  linguistics. In 1989 he got  the position of extraordinary professor in the institute  of Oriental  Philology  of the Jagellonian University on  the  basis of the  book "Nominal Plural in the Cushitic Languages". In 2000 he got  the  position  of  full professor  with  tenure  at the  Jagellonian University. In the years 2000-2013 he was  head of the Chair of Afroasiatic Linguistics  in the Institute of Oriental Philology of the Jagellonian University. In those years he taught Arabic philology, comparative grammar of Semitic languages, rare Afroasiatic languages (Ethiopic, Syriac, Aramaic, Ancient Egyptian, Akkadian) and general linguistics. Since 1970 Andrzej Zaborski was a member of the Oriental Committee of the Polish Academy  of Sciences, Cracow  Branch. He was its president since 1997. Since 1977 he was a  member of  the Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, being twice its elected vice-president (1999-2002 and 2007-2010). He was chief editor of the journal "Folia Orientalia". He participated  with  papers  in about 130 international conferences and congresses. He organized several international conferences in Cracow, among them four editions of the conference "Oriental languages in translation". The main field of research conducted by Andrzej Zaborski was Afroasiatic linguistics, especially Cushitic languages and Arabic. His two books concern the morphology of Cushitic languages. He translated and commented medieval Arabic texts. He wrote about 200 papers, dealing with Afroasiatic linguistics, the history of Africa, Arabic source texts for the history of Slavonic peoples, theory and practice of translation. He wrote a Polish-Egyptian Arabic phrasebook, coauthored a handbook of the Oromo language. He greatly contributed to the Semitic philology by applying modern linguistic theories and methods to the Semitic languages. The bibliography of his works has been published in his festschrift ("Folia Orientalia" 49, 2012). Professor Andrzej Zaborski was wise master, witty savant, enthusiastic sailor holding a Yachtmaster Ocean qualification.

The biography (published in "Rocznik Orientalistyczny"  67 / 2014) is based on Curriculum Vitae written by professor Andrzej Zaborski on 20th September 2012, accessible on the website of Southern African Society for Near Eastern Studies.


Alicja Małecka was born in Warsaw on June 6, 1934. During the Second Word War she lived with her parents in Lvov. After the War the family moved to Cracow and here in 1951 she entered the Jagiellonian University starting oriental studies. She was keen on African culture and languages notably on Swahili folklore.  In 1956 Alicja Małecka graduated from the University with a Master’s Degree in Oriental Philology and was offered the position of assistant in the then Chair of Oriental Philology at the Jagiellonian University. Ten years after her graduation she defended her PhD thesis on chosen aspects of Swahili grammar. She took part in the first full translation of The Arabian Nights into Polish. She retired in 1995.