Caroline Williams is a scholar of Islamic art and architecture, with an expertise in the architecture of Cairo. After receiving a BA from Radcliffe College in history, Caroline traveled through East and Southeast Asia, India, the Fertile Crescent, and the Mediterranean. It was during this trip in 1962 that she first visited Egypt and developed an interest in its history and architecture. After 1962, she returned to Harvard to complete a masters in Middle Eastern Studies and then attended the American University in Cairo, where she earned a second masters in Islamic Art and Architecture. In Cairo, she met her future husband John Alden Williams, who was at that time the director of the Center of Arabic Studies at AUC and a professor of Islamic civilization.
As an independent Scholar, Caroline has lectured and
published articles dealing with Cairo in
its various guises: as a city shaped by historic and contemporary forces; as a repository of the most
concentrated, most varied and most chronologically extended collection of
Islamic monuments; as a city discovered in the 19th century by Western artists;
and finally as a patrimony described anew by Egyptian artists in the 20th
century. In 1985 Caroline published The Islamic Monuments of Cairo:
The Practical Guide. Over the years the book has been expanded and updated,
and in 2018, it appeared again in its seventh edition. She has taught courses in art and architecture in the United States and Egypt,
and has been an escort-lecturer on various art and academic tours in Egypt, Syria,
Morocco, Tunisia and Spain.
Caroline and John Williams took thousands of photographs in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East as part of their research on art and architecture. Some of these have been published as part of their research, and a sample of the collection formed one of the earliest groups of images available on the Archnet Digital Library. Caroline Williams donated the majority of their collection of 35 mm slides to the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT in 2017, where they are housed in the original slide cabinets and available for research and reference.