Since its early days in the XIII century, the Dominican Order has felt the desire to meet the Muslim world and to know its culture. A number of communities were founded in Tunis, Constantinople and Baghdad. the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies was founded in Cairo in 1953 by the Dominican Order upon request of the Holy See to create room for dialogue, with no intentions of proselytism, to foster better reciprocal knowledge between Christians and Muslims. Situated in Cairo, the great metropolis of the Arab world, the IDEO is in a quarter near al-Azhar, the prestigious university with which the Institute enjoys good relations.
Its founder, father Georges Anawati, and his first collaborators, Jacques Jomier and Serge de Beaurecueil, soon made the IDEO famous thanks to their skills in different contexts of Muslim culture and their sense of friendship. The twelve Dominican fathers who today give life to the Institute want to pursue their task driven by the same spirit: respectful knowledge of others and the quality of human relationships.
Besides this group of researchers, the IDEO carries out its mission by means of a library containing 155,000 volumes, part of which are in Arabic, and an impressive collection of scientific journals, all at the free disposal of readers’ of both Egyptian and foreign universities.
In recent years efforts have been made to digitise the library’s catalogue, streamlining a specialised software, alKindi, which takes into account the specificities of the Arab culture. This catalogue, which can be accessed online, is much appreciated by researchers.
In 2013 the IDEO undertook a research project in collaboration with the European Union aimed at contextualising 200 authors of the classical Muslim patrimony to help the student researchers to make a more blended reading of it.
Since 1954 the IDEO has also published a specialised magazine, Mélanges de l’Institut dominicain d’études orientales (MIDEO) in which are presented the works of the members of the Institute and their closest collaborators.
Next to the library the IDEO has created a Maison des chercheurs which allows students or professors to benefit from privileged access to the library in an atmosphere of quiet and serenity that is hard to find in Cairo.