From July 15th to July 19th, the 59th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale was held in the beautiful city of Ghent, in Belgium. The theme of this RAI was ‘Law and (Dis)order in the Ancient Near East’, but on Sunday no one could tell, for the registration went as smooth as possible. With the sun shining on Assyriologists gathering from all over the world, it promised to be a fantastic week!
Early Monday morning, 10 o’clock, everyone was welcomed by the Vice-Rector of the university of Ghent (Luc Moens) and the honorary dean of the faculty (Johnny Devreker). Together with the Chair of the Organizing Committee, Katrien de Graef and the President of the IAA, Piotr Michalowski, they made everyone feel at home. Then, at 11 o’clock, the opening session was started. Sophie Démare-Lafont, Marc van de Mieroop and Piotr Michalowski presented their keynote lectures. With six lectures and one workshop, the RAI 59 had begun!
The next morning, the busiest day of the week started. Tuesday was the day on which 22 lectures were held, together with two workshops. No matter what your area of expertise, with topics varying from (dis)order in literature to absolute chronology, there was something for everyone.
Wednesday was the day everyone had been waiting for. On this day we were going to find out what surprise the RAI organizing committee had in store for us. At registration, everyone was handed an invitation to a ‘Oriental Walking Dinner’ and all water cooler-conversations were about this elusive dining experience. And none of us was disappointed: when the time came a huge buffet was waiting for us in a beautiful old cloister. With oriental treats in one hand and a nice glass of wine in the other, the courtyard was flooded with chatting Assyriologists.
For at least the students, the night did not end when dinner was over. All over town young Assyriologists were seen on the Belgian terraces, talking about all of the experiences they had during the first half of the week.
Thursday morning. Traditionally a peaceful day during Rencontres and that was no different this year. Apparently, not just the students had a nice evening, as it was suspiciously quiet that day. Not at all for lack of interesting lectures, mind you, for today again a broad range of topics were discussed. Both great names and upcoming talents showcased their knowledge. Also on this day, the IAA general meeting was held. Many subjects were discussed, and an introduction into Warsaw, the location of next year’s Rencontre, was presented. Also, the winners of the IAA-prizes and the De Gruyter Dissertation award were announced and a fund to be set up with a donation given by Maureen Kovacs was approved by the general meeting.
And finally then, all good things must come to an end: on Friday the last day of this year’s RAI had arrived. Too soon for some, while others couldn’t wait to get to their own beds and had already left. It had been a great week and those who had stayed to hear the last lectures were certainly not disappointed! After Wilfred van Soldt’s closing speech, we now have to wait for next summer before the Warsaw Rencontre kicks off!
Many thanks to the organizing committee and all of the students involved for turning this RAI into a great event!