Hani Hayajneh on pre-islamic cultures and languages (06-11-2015)

Building peace in the Middle East through a better understanding of pre-islamic languages and cultures

More videos with Hani Hayajneh

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00:00:00 Interviewer: [Prakhaim 00:00:00] what sparked your curiosity for pre-Arabic languages?
00:00:05 Prakhaim: You mean pre-Arabic?
00:00:06 Interviewer: Yeah.
00:00:07 Prakhaim: Well, when I attended the university in 1983, I started studying Arabistic, Arabic Studies.
00:00:23 I attended courses in the Arabic morphology, syntax,
00:00:28 and I found out that most of the linguistic phenomena couldn't be explained by the normal methodology which we follow
00:00:40 in Arabic Studies usually, the traditional Arabic Studies.
00:00:45 Which, in fact, in the future, after I got my BA in Arabistic at Yarmouk University in 1987,
00:00:52 I attended a Master program in Epigraphy.
00:01:00 Epigraphy is the study of ancient inscriptions in general, and whether they are incised on rock, or cast in metal
00:01:11 or on wood, really, there are many surfaces.
00:01:18 We can talk about many surfaces where ancient inscriptions are written. In fact, this study, I mean,
00:01:28 studying epigraphy at Yarmouk University, the Institute of Archeology and Anthropology,
00:01:34 paved my way to understand more about the prehistory of Arabic in general.
00:01:43 Also, it gives me the opportunity to discover more about the cultural history of Arabian Peninsula before Islam,
00:01:51 because through the inscriptions we discover usually facts related to the religious beliefs in Arabia,
00:02:03 as well as historical facts that are not attested in the Arabic sources or in the Arabic tradition.
00:02:11 What I mean, that studying Arabic
00:02:13 and Arabic culture in general would not yield to useful conclusions without studying the ancient Arabian languages in
00:02:26 general.
00:02:27 I mean, every students who attends, who would like to study Arabic and Arabian culture,
00:02:33 should start maybe from the 10th Century BC to have a wide understanding
00:02:41 and a deep understanding about the Arabian Peninsula and its history, its religions, and languages.
00:02:49 Interviewer: You started studying that? Was it a new study? Were you the first or were you one of the first to do that?
00:02:58 Prakhaim: Well, yes.
00:03:03 In fact, my group in fact, in 1987,
00:03:06 were the second group which attended the MA in Epigraphy at the Institute of Archeology and Anthropology,
00:03:17 and we are now more than 30 professors spread over Jordan and worldwide.
00:03:28 This gave us, of course, an impulse to work on further to discover our cultural heritage, our linguistic
00:03:42 and cultural heritage in general. In fact, I'm okay.
00:03:47 I’m at Yarmouk University now, where I studied before, but my stay in Germany, in fact,
00:03:55 I invested my stay in Germany to go in depth in this study.
00:04:06 I tried my best, through German language, to discover more and more about the Arabian culture
00:04:17 and the Arabian cultural history, in addition to Levantine, and also the Horn of Africa.
00:04:27 I'm also interested in the relationship between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa,
00:04:34 in addition to a wide historical spectrum covered by my study, either during my MA period and PhD period in Germany.
00:04:49 Interviewer: In the German period, you discovered, or you discovered probably before,
00:04:55 but what I like in your German period, what you describe is how you somehow, through language,
00:05:00 learning the German language, discovered more and more of the German soul, the German culture, the German-
00:05:06 Prakhaim: Yeah, of course. I mean, learning German was of great importance for me.
00:05:13 It paved the way to understand literature written in German in general, and, as you know, German,
00:05:21 or any language you learn, is kind of a key. It's a key to the culture itself.
00:05:29 Not only to literature, but also to the people.
00:05:33 I mean, if you understand the language, if you can deal with the language,
00:05:38 it means that you can discover the culture as well.
00:05:42 Interviewer: German is of course a living language.
00:05:45 It's a language that's been spoken by lots of people in Germany and abroad.
00:05:49 You went on in studying languages that are pre-Islamic?
00:05:54 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact … Well, yes.
00:06:00 If you know the system of a certain language, then it will be easy for you to learn other languages.
00:06:10 I talk now about the grammar of a language. I'm not talking about the script.
00:06:19 Yes, I had the background how to deal with languages in German.
00:06:25 That's why it was for me maybe easy to learn German, and also to deal with it and to write a lot of articles
00:06:36 and publications in German.
00:06:37 Interviewer: When you say once you know how the key, you have easy access to the keys of languages
00:06:45 and of inscriptions so, by having those keys, your generation is one of the first maybe that really just …
00:06:54 Prakhaim: If I say generation, I mean the generation in Jordan.
00:07:02 Europeans took care about this 100, 200 years ago, since 200 years.
00:07:08 We are not the first in this field, and studying the ancient Arabian culture, either in Arabia, the Arabian Peninsula,
00:07:20 or in Levant, the Europeans were pioneers in this regard, I'll say.
00:07:30 Of course, and also they contributed in deciphering the ancient inscriptions, and my generation, which studied abroad,
00:07:40 got the same experience and the same information they gained, I mean, the Europeans has gained before.
00:07:53 Of course, on a daily … Inscriptions are discovered constantly, and some of them are still undeciphered,
00:08:09 but we have of course inscriptions and languages that we understand and we can deal with the text
00:08:17 and draw conclusions from the text, either on the linguistic, cultural, or any other level.
00:08:25 Interviewer: I can imagine that such a beautiful thing that you discover through inscriptions,.
00:08:30 through understanding languages, that you're discovering former cultures and former ..
00:08:38 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact, inscriptions are repositories of ancient history.
00:08:44 Of course, if you discover an inscription, it means that you can understand a lot about the environment
00:08:53 or the locality where the inscription is found.
00:08:56 In certain cases, you can date the site, an archeological site, through the inscription.
00:09:04 I mean, not only pottery, but also other inscriptional material can help us in dating archeological sites,
00:09:12 and we have now, I mean, if the inscription is dated, for example,
00:09:20 then now you have a fixed date of a certain site. Sometimes the paleography, paleography,
00:09:24 I mean the way you write inscriptions,
00:09:31 it also gives you indications about the … it gives you some information about dating, about dating the site,
00:09:43 but not in exact details.
00:09:46 I mean, also, if you discover an inscription which is new and you are the first one who read it and understand it,
00:09:54 then you convey to the humanity and you experience a new information that are, in my opinion,
00:10:03 of great importance to understand the human creativity..
00:10:08 Interviewer: When you decipher such an inscription, what does that do for ..
00:10:19 It opens a window to a culture that was once here?
00:10:25 Prakhaim: Yeah, of course.
00:10:27 I mean, you understand, as soon as you discover and decipher an inscription and understand it,
00:10:34 of course it opens a window to a lot of historical facts and cultural,
00:10:43 historical facts about the region where it is discovered.
00:10:47 Interviewer: When you say that you are, your generation, is one of the first from Jordan
00:10:54 or from the Arabian Peninsula investigating or doing scientific research on these inscriptions, what does that mean,
00:11:05 that you are the first from this region to do that? What does that say of …?
00:11:10 Prakhaim: It means a lot.
00:11:13 It means that we have now a generation from Jordan, from the area,
00:11:19 from the region in general which can deal with its cultural heritage and understand it in the same historical
00:11:32 and geographical context.
00:11:35 If I talk about … I mean Europeans, they contributed in deciphering the inscriptions,
00:11:43 they contributed in understanding the inscriptions, but sometimes, some of them of course, some of them,
00:11:50 they lack the cultural background. I have to say that frankly.
00:11:56 Some of them, they lack the cultural background,
00:11:58 therefore their understanding of the entire story is a little bit vague. Now, in fact, we are not working alone here.
00:12:14 We are working also with our European colleagues in Europe, mainly in Europe and the United States and other countries,
00:12:20 and we exchange opinions about certain issues in this regard. After that, we reach a conclusion.
00:12:29 Interviewer: But you bring in some extra layer, or a very important layer, because you are from this-
00:12:36 Prakhaim: Yes, from the same region. Yeah.
00:12:40 Yes, but I have to say my European colleagues also help in different regards, in different perspectives.
00:12:51 We conduct joint surveys. We conduct also joint studies together.
00:12:58 I think it’s important not from the scientific perspective,
00:13:02 but also from the cultural perspective because it’s important to get in contact with our European colleagues.
00:13:11 I mean, not only Europeans but outside Jordan, our colleagues from outside Jordan to have exchange,
00:13:19 which means that we can do more for cultural understanding as well.
00:13:26 Interviewer: Everybody say that as you’re born here, you’re raised here, you’re part of this culture,
00:13:32 and you are one of the first working in this field and understanding those languages,
00:13:41 that makes you a … that I can imagine that’s a very special role you have.
00:13:47 A very important role, a very special role.
00:13:49 Prakhaim: Yes, I personally can’t evaluate myself, whether I have a special role or not.
00:13:57 It’s the academic world which would decide this..
00:14:04 I’m not the one who decides that because I can’t [crosstalk 00:14:07]
00:14:06 Interviewer: No, but what you do is you shed light on times that people here seems before not know much about.
00:14:16 At least, how do you see that?
00:14:19 Prakhaim: Yeah, that is true. Yeah, this is true.
00:14:23 Well, some generations … I mean, what I want to say, that to be broadminded
00:14:32 and to accept the opinion of others is crucial to understand and to exchange ideas,
00:14:46 and also to reach reliable conclusions.
00:14:51 I think that who would like to study this, the culture in general, should have a broad knowledge about a lot of things,
00:15:01 not only history, not only languages, but also ancient history and also modern history and ancient cultures
00:15:11 and modern culture.
00:15:13 They are not separateable. We cannot separate them because, I mean, [Batians 00:15:17]
00:15:20 who lived in this area for a long time, they existed after that.
00:15:27 What I’m talking about is the change of political entities while the people are the same.
00:15:33 The people are the same, and they also continue to live in this area, in this region.
00:15:43 I think we have to take into consideration a lot of perspectives towards studying a certain topic
00:15:55 or a certain subject in our cultural history in general. Studying the past is connected with our living heritage.
00:16:12 We cannot separate them.
00:16:13 Interviewer: The fact that you shed light on the times that, before,
00:16:19 people here wouldn’t know much about because it was not-
00:16:23 Prakhaim: Yeah.
00:16:24 Interviewer: Why is it? Why is it that you are one of the first to do just that?
00:16:34 Prakhaim: No, I have some colleagues who are older than me and did that of course,
00:16:39 but I think it’s important to have a generation here who is interested in its cultural heritage and cultural history.
00:16:53 Interviewer: What I want to say is by being one of the first Jordanian, professor now
00:17:01 but one of the scientists researching, investigating inscriptions and languages
00:17:07 and shedding light on a time that somehow is not known about,
00:17:13 why is it that those times … what makes those times were not seen or not accepted or not embraced before?
00:17:23 Prakhaim: Yes, because if I take the Arabian Peninsula as an example, the Arabic sources, for example,
00:17:37 that brought about the Arabian … that were concerned with the Arabian Peninsula and its history, they didn’t get,
00:17:46 in fact, the access to ancient sources because at that time they hadn’t the instruments that give them the access,
00:17:57 for example, to ancient South Arabian epigraphy or ancient North Arabian epigraphy or Novatian epigraphy.
00:18:06 We are talking about a 200 years old discipline, not that ancient. It’s not that old. Yeah.
00:18:18 We can expect that such Arabic sources do not cover the entire … I mean, they cover maybe 200 years before Islam,
00:18:31 for example, but they don’t go deeper into history because the composer and the authors,
00:18:37 they didn’t have the access into such an epigraphical source.
00:18:43 Interviewer: That sort-
00:18:45 Prakhaim: That’s why it’s important to take into consideration the archeological sources and epigraphical sources,
00:18:53 as well maybe oral history as well. It’s also important.
00:19:00 I mean, oral history is important to understand ancient cultures because the same people are still living.
00:19:07 I mean, the same people who established the ancient cultures, their descendants are still there. Yeah.
00:19:16 That’s why I feel it’s important to study the Arabian Peninsula in a holistic approach,
00:19:26 where we can take into consideration the epigraphical sources, the archeology, in addition also to a living heritage.
00:19:35 Interviewer: When you say like before, the ancient [inaudible 00:19:41]
00:19:41 and cultures were not really part of the Arabic storytelling, of the Arabic history, that’s now changing then,
00:19:52 I suspect, because you bring them the stories of those days?
00:19:57 Prakhaim: Yes. Yeah, and now we have a new window to ancient history of the Arabian Peninsula. There is a new one.
00:20:06 This new window was not possible to open without studying and deciphering the inscriptions,
00:20:12 deciphering the ancient Arabian and Semitic inscriptions in general. Yeah.
00:20:18 Interviewer: What does this window … Because I suppose much of the students you get,
00:20:23 they are taught in a way that they don’t understand those times before.
00:20:28 Prakhaim: Yes.
00:20:29 Interviewer: How do they see that era when they come in your faculty?
00:20:37 Prakhaim: Yeah, that’s a good question.
00:20:39 In fact, students who come to our faculty, they have their own stereotype ideas about Arabia
00:20:49 or about the Semitic cultures in general, but when they get deeply involved in this field,
00:20:55 they start changing their understanding
00:20:59 and also their methodology towards studying the cultural history of the Semitic world.
00:21:06 Interviewer: What is their view when they come in?
00:21:09 How do they see them when they don’t have this knowledge, the kind of ignorant times or-.
00:21:13 Prakhaim: In fact, most of our students who are coming to the ..
00:21:17 I mean,
00:21:17 in fact they are selected because they know in pre-year what are they going to do because they have a little knowledge
00:21:30 about this and about the cultural history of Arabia and the Semitic world in general.
00:21:41 At the Institute, we train them and we conduct surveys so that they understand what we are doing in a better way.
00:21:51 Interviewer: What is, I suppose, the view that they have … The people from Jordan or from the Arabian Peninsula,
00:22:00 how do they see in general the times before Islam?
00:22:04 Prakhaim: In fact, the Arabian Peninsula was a flourish … they had a flourishing civilization in Arabia before Islam,
00:22:18 and the word “Jahiliyyah” or the ignorance period,
00:22:22 I think it’s not the right word to use in this context because ignorance,
00:22:30 it means that the people who were living there were ignorant and they were not in contact with the civilization,
00:22:38 et cetera, but this is in fact a little bit … I mean, the idea should be modified a little bit.
00:22:45 In fact, Arabia witnessed a flourishing culture economically and historically and culturally in general.
00:23:01 It’s our rule now to present this culture, which was hidden in the inscriptions.
00:23:07 Interviewer: That’s your role?
00:23:11 Prakhaim: Yeah.
00:23:11 Interviewer: Present? That’s your role?
00:23:11 Prakhaim: I mean,
00:23:12 to present the contents of this ancient heritage to be absorbed by the young generation because it’s part of their
00:23:21 identity, it’s part of their history.
00:23:23 I think it’s our role now to make them aware that Arabia is not … I mean maybe Jahiliyyah in terms of the religious
00:23:37 perspective, but from the civilized perspective Arabia, I think, especially the southern parts and the central parts,.
00:23:46 they are of a great importance and significance to understand the … Okay, I’m [inaudible 00:23:59].
00:23:56 Interviewer: [inaudible 00:23:59]
00:23:56 Prakhaim: I think the sources give us a new glimpse.
00:24:04 I mean, the ancient sources, the ancient inscriptions give us new glimpses on the hidden history
00:24:12 and the hidden culture of Arabia before Islam.
00:24:18 This is now evident through research and through archeological surveys, and through also studies published.
00:24:32 You have thousands of publications in this regard, but most of them in fact are written in foreign languages.
00:24:44 That’s why they are not accessible by Arab people.
00:24:48 It’s our role now to, I mean, not to translate them, this is a huge literature,
00:24:57 but to present the cultural history of Arabia in Arabic world.
00:25:07 I think this is important now so that Arab people can have access to this source.
00:25:14 Interviewer: When you studied several languages, you can lay connections so you create, I think,
00:25:25 the worlds that had been here that before was not understood by people.
00:25:32 Prakhaim: You mean the scholarly world or what?
00:25:36 Interviewer: No, both.
00:25:38 You’re putting a light on times that for most people was not known yet, so people understand now that, for example,
00:25:49 here in Petra, that this is the culture of what it stands for.
00:25:56 Prakhaim: Yes, of course. I have to say I’m not the first one in this regard, of course.
00:26:01 Interviewer: Of course. I know.
00:26:02 Prakhaim: But understanding … I mean, if you talk about epigraphy or the ancient languages, yes of course,
00:26:11 as I said in the beginning, they are in fact the key to cultures.
00:26:16 The Batian inscriptions are written in the Batian language, in the Batian script,
00:26:23 and if you decipher the scripts then you understand the language
00:26:26 and you understand after that the contents of a certain inscription.
00:26:34 From this inscription, you can extract and draw conclusions regarding religious history, regarding commercial issues,
00:26:44 regarding social relations among people at that time.
00:26:48 I mean, through this knowledge, you can nurture the history of their region of course. Yeah.
00:27:01 Interviewer: Do you see that also, that there are connections between the pre-Arabic worlds and the Arab world?
00:27:12 That somehow, I mean, like … Yeah, do you see connections that before had not been seen?
00:27:15 Prakhaim: Between the pre-Arab-
00:27:17 Interviewer: Pre-Islamic worlds and the Islamic world.
00:27:20 Prakhaim: Yeah. Yes, of course. Yes.
00:27:23 Yes, of course, because people continue to exist in Arabia,
00:27:28 and of course they got with them ancient traditions that continued until nowadays.
00:27:37 Interviewer: Do you have examples of that?
00:27:40 Prakhaim: Well, let us say something.
00:27:44 Some ancient South Arabian inscriptions from Yemen, from present Yemen,
00:27:50 in fact we rely on Yemeni dialects to understand the ancient inscriptions because some words that were there in ancient
00:28:01 South Arabian inscriptions, they are still used in Yemen. This is a fact.
00:28:09 Also, some rituals that existed, that we know from the inscriptions, are still existing until nowadays in Yemen,
00:28:21 which means that this culture continue to exist apart of political changes, apart of economic changes,
00:28:31 but people have preserved this cultural heritage and continued to transmit it.
00:28:37 Interviewer: You said also the camel burial? Or is that another …?
00:28:41 Prakhaim: No, it’s something different.
00:28:45 Interviewer: That is something different? Okay, sorry for that. One …
00:28:49 Prakhaim: That’s something different.
00:28:51 I mean, the camel burial inscriptions, okay, it’s from Wadi Rum,
00:28:55 but this is an evidence about resurrection that people in Arabia used to bury their camels with them so that they …
00:29:09 Speaker 1: The camera has stopped. Maybe we should stop …
00:29:12 Interviewer: Where did your passion for languages and inscription start?
00:29:19 Prakhaim: Well, in fact this passion started after my … in fact, during my BA studies in Jordan,
00:29:27 at Yarmouk University. At Yarmouk University.
00:29:31 I tried my best to understand the Arabian culture in more deep and with more depth,
00:29:38 but I didn’t find this during my BA studies because we were studying Arabic
00:29:50 and Arabistic in general in a traditional way, studying the languages not in a diachronic way but in synchronic way.
00:30:05 I started looking for programs that could help me in deciphering the ancient history of Arabic in general
00:30:16 and the ancient history of the Arabian culture.
00:30:22 That was after 1987, when I attended a Master program at the Institute of Archeology and Anthropology,
00:30:33 where I studied Epigraphy
00:30:36 and I finished my MA in Epigraphy. My Master thesis was concerned with the lexical relationship between Arabic
00:30:48 and Ugaritic. Ugaritic is one of the Bronze Age, late Bronze Age languages that existed on the Mediterranean Sea.
00:31:01 I tried to find the lexical affinities between Arabic … some scholars call the classical Arabic or standard Arabic.
00:31:09 There are different terminology. I mean, here, the Arabic of Koran and the pre-Islamic Arabian poetry.
00:31:21 I found out that there are a lot of aspects that constitute the kind of lexical similarity between Ugaritic and Arabic.
00:31:38 Yes, because this could be of course explained because both languages, they have the same mother language,
00:31:45 which we call it … It’s a hypothetical language.
00:31:47 We call it Proto-Semitic. This lexical stuff could be from this genetic relationship,
00:31:59 but this relationship could be also through historical factors, by migrations, by historical contacts,
00:32:16 commercial contacts, et cetera, but we have a lot of historical models to explain this similarity.
00:32:25 In general, most of the languages in Levant, the Levant and Arabia, and also in Mesopotamia, they are interconnected.
00:32:35 We call them sister languages because they come from the same origin. The origin, we call it Proto-Semitic.
00:32:43 Interviewer: To go back, what is your fascination for these old languages?
00:32:50 Prakhaim: Yes, because in general I found the languages very … I mean,
00:32:57 studying the language provide us with their right instruments to decipher cultures.
00:33:02 I mean, for example, I did for five years the ancient Ethiopic, old Ethiopic language because my professor in Berlin,,
00:33:15 Professor [Rhiner Folkt 00:33:12] he is a renowned professor in this field.
00:33:16 I did with him five years studying ancient Ethiopic or old Ethiopic. Why?
00:33:24 Because I wanted to understand the relationship between Arabia and the Horn of Africa.
00:33:30 I mean, studying the language would explain a lot of historical facts
00:33:36 and historical phenomena in terms of relationship between Arabia and the Horn of Africa. This is an example.
00:33:48 As I said to you, because I was interested in exploring the history of Arabic language
00:33:57 and the Arabic culture in general.
00:33:59 Interviewer: Even before your studies, where did this fascination for languages
00:34:04 and for these … where did it start and-
00:34:07 Prakhaim: Yes. I was interested in languages even during my childhood.
00:34:15 Also, my … That’s I was interested in English from the beginning, although I was studying Arabic,
00:34:27 because I found out that studying a certain language would open
00:34:32 and pave the way for me to get a deep information about certain aspects of our cultural history.
00:34:44 From the beginning, I was interested in languages, but I can’t say how this evolved at the beginning..
00:34:54 Speaker 1: [inaudible 00:34:54]
00:34:55 Interviewer: When you were really young, I mean when you were 10 or 11, how did it show? What was the fascination then?
00:35:10 Prakhaim: The fascination in languages?.
00:35:15 Interviewer: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
00:35:16 Prakhaim: I can’t remember. I mean, I can’t make a sense of this in this regard.?
00:35:21 Interviewer: Did you want to discover the world, understand the world? Did you want to be a [inaudible 00:35:26]
00:35:29 Prakhaim: I don't know. I can say that we had no Internet at that time.
00:35:38 The TV also was not accessible at that time because I was born in a village where electricity didn’t exist at that
00:35:46 time until 1982, in fact. We had a radio and that was our window to the world.
00:36:03 Of course I heard a lot of languages in the radio. I found out later that this is German, this is French.
00:36:13 At that time, I couldn’t differentiate between German, French or Dutch or Swedish or Russian, but
00:36:24 when I started to hear … I mean, there were voices, only voices for me,
00:36:29 but there are certain points where the pronunciation is different from each other.
00:36:39 Maybe this is one of the reasons why I was interested. I mean, I was interested in languages, because-
00:36:50 Interviewer: How did you listen into the radio? Can you describe? This was in the living room?
00:36:55 How did you know that you could find different languages?
00:36:58 Prakhaim: Yeah, I can’t tell you. It was in the living room of course, yes. I don’t understand your question.
00:37:09 Interviewer: How do you … It’s a radio. You hear those language. How did you do it?
00:37:11 Were you scrolling through the channels?
00:37:16 Prakhaim: Yes, yes, scrolling through the channels and trying to … Even within the Arabic sphere,
00:37:25 and I try to … We have many dialects here in the Arab world and it was for me, at the beginning,
00:37:31 difficult to understand, for example, the Algerian or the Moroccan dialect.
00:37:37 This is one example why I tried to have the right instruments to study languages because the Arabic dialects,
00:37:49 they could be considered as languages because sometimes they have different morphology and different syntax.
00:37:58 This made me also enthusiastic to pursue studying languages.
00:38:05 In fact, I can’t classify the factors why I was interested in language from the beginning. I don't know.
00:38:13 I have no personal synthesis about this. Yeah.
00:38:17 Interviewer: You were from a family that’s also scientific interested or …?
00:38:25 Prakhaim: Yes.
00:38:26 In fact, my family, they were interested in … I mean, my father is a businessman and my family in general,
00:38:38 they used to earn money through business.
00:38:41 It was my uncle, in fact, my elder uncle, who supported me
00:38:47 and opened my eye to the academic world because he is considered one of the first graduates from the Jordan University.
00:39:00 In fact, he supported my career, my studies,
00:39:05 and also opened my eyes towards the world because he got in contact with the people in Amman, in the capital city,
00:39:16 and also worldwide. That’s why he wanted me to deviate from the career of my family a little bit.
00:39:26 Interviewer: When you [inaudible 00:39:28] described your … Well. What sparked your curiosity?
00:39:37 Prakhaim: Well, regarding languages? Yeah. In fact, I am a patient guy.
00:39:46 I have to say, I’m very patient, even from childhood.
00:39:52 I used to help my father in his store and in his business since I was seven years old, in fact. I have to say that.
00:40:02 This part of my life, this shaped my life to be a serious person because I didn’t … in fact,
00:40:13 I didn’t enjoy most of the children my age enjoyed before.
00:40:22 My father wanted me to be the best among the … in the village
00:40:28 and he sent me first to a Roman Catholic school in Irbid. That was in 1970.
00:40:37 The story of my academic life
00:40:39 or my school life started there. Due to the problems that occurred in Jordan at that time,
00:40:50 well my father preferred that I go back to the village and to study there and to continue studying there,
00:40:57 doing my preparatory, my elementary preparatory and secondary schooling, I did it in the village,
00:41:07 and even in a village nearby where … and I used to walk from my house to that village for three kilometers sometimes.
00:41:17 Maybe this stimulated me to think about the world and about sometimes the creation, about a lot of things,
00:41:30 where usually school boys think sometimes.
00:41:35 Some of them, they don’t think about it because they have their other interests.
00:41:40 In fact, even this influenced my life and my future life, the university, even in Germany, and also later,
00:41:53 I can see. Well, during the preparatory and elementary period or phases, we used to study Arabic poetry,
00:42:06 ancient Arabic poetry, and I was fascinated in fact with the contents of the Arabic poetry
00:42:13 and how they can be recited in a rhythmic style.
00:42:21 I was interested also to understand the words used in such passages, poetical passages.
00:42:32 I can assure you that later I found out that our teachers, sometimes they explained in a traditional way,
00:42:41 they explained some words in a traditional way, but I was not convinced.
00:42:45 I was not convinced mostly in their explanations. I keep this until I went to the university in 1983 where I attended
00:42:56 the Arabic Program at Yarmouk University, and we went, in fact with the assistance of professors of Arabic Studies,
00:43:05 we went in depth in studying the ancient Arabic poetry, but the problem, I didn’t find a solution for my problem.
00:43:20 I mean, how to understand the Arabic poetry in a proper way
00:43:23 and what are the origins of certain words in this Arabic poetry,.
00:43:33 and also to explain how a linguistic phenomena could be ..
00:43:40 How could we explain a certain linguistic phenomena in Arabic in particular, and within this wide context, I mean,
00:43:51 within this wide Arabic context, where Arabic is used.
00:43:55 As you know, Arabic is used in different parts of the world,
00:43:59 and in fact that was not enough for me because I started to excavate
00:44:06 and to dig for the origins of Arabic. I found some of the answer during my MA studies.
00:44:16 My MA studies where we’re exposed to, in fact, I have to say European experience.
00:44:23 I was taught by different European professors and American professors at the Institute of Archeology.
00:44:30 and Anthropology at that time. We were exposed to ..
00:44:35 Also, we attended courses to study, for example, Canaanite, Ancient South Arabian, Old Ethiopic, Aramaic, et cetera,
00:44:46 and all of these languages are sister languages and go back to one source or to one origin,
00:44:57 which we called Proto-Semitic.
00:44:58 Now, this in fact opened and paved the way for my future research, and since then I was interested in studying more
00:45:16 and more, more ancient languages to understand Arabic and its context in a proper way. Well, as I-
00:45:27 Interviewer: What makes now you unique in the world? It makes you unique.
00:45:35 Prakhaim: Yes.
00:45:35 Interviewer: Why?
00:45:36 Prakhaim: I’m afraid of this word “unique.”
00:45:38 Interviewer: It does?
00:45:39 Prakhaim: Yeah.
00:45:41 I’m trying to connect and to find the relationship between Arabic and its cultural and linguistic context.
00:45:51 This is what I’m trying to show not only to my colleagues, also to my students, and also to make it known abroad.
00:46:08 This methodology was not known in fact in the Arab world,
00:46:15 how to connect Arabic with its surrounding languages through ages and also the culture where Arabic emerged. Yeah.
00:46:28 This influenced, of course, my future studies and future research. I did my MA.
00:46:38 I did my MA thesis on the relationship between Arabic and Ugaritic,
00:46:42 because Arabic is an important source because it’s a language which existed and continue to exist in Arabia
00:46:52 and the Levant also and of course in North Africa.
00:46:56 Interviewer: One second, what do we have here?.
00:47:00 Prakhaim: We hear the Adhan, Adhan [al Asr 00:47:01]
00:47:07 Interviewer: What is that Adhan Asr?
00:47:07 Prakhaim: Yeah. I mean, as you know, we have Islamic prayers, five prayers.
00:47:11 This is the … We call it Adhan al Asr, which comes after afternoon.
00:47:18 Interviewer: You said at a certain moment when you were young you listened to this Arabic poetry.
00:47:29 and [inaudible 00:47:26] I'm sorry?
00:47:30 Prakhaim: In fact, it was included in the curricula of the school. Yeah.
00:47:34 Also, I hear that some people improvised it
00:47:40 and I was interested in understanding the meaning of this poetry in a proper way.
00:47:48 We usually … People recite this poetry,
00:47:51 but they sometimes don’t understand the cultural backgrounds of this poetry.
00:47:56 I was interested in the cultural background, not only on how to be recited.
00:48:02 It’s beautiful to hear it, but I was interested in understanding the cultural dimensions of this poetry
00:48:13 and its language.
00:48:15 Interviewer: You missed that in the recital?
00:48:17 Prakhaim: Yes.
00:48:18 This is what I missed in fact during my school period, also I can say even during my BA period at the university,
00:48:27 because they used to teach us in a traditional way, trying to explain.
00:48:33 They couldn’t explain the cultural backgrounds of this poetry.
00:48:43 Not only the cultural backgrounds,
00:48:46 but also the contained lexical items that were for me very difficult to understand as a young guy,
00:48:57 because the Arabian poetry represents, or the Arabic poetry, represents a very old stage of the Arabic literature
00:49:08 and I can’t say that it was disconnected from the people,
00:49:14 but it represented a certain cultural phase in the Arabian peninsula.
00:49:22 In future stages of my life, I was interested to understand in depth the cultural background
00:49:30 and the cultural context of this poetry. Also, the Koran, the beginning of Islam.
00:49:39 I mean, the language of Koran was also for me a very difficult language to understand,
00:49:44 and I think we can shed some light on the Koranic text from different languages that existed in Arabia before Islam,
00:49:54 because some words continued to be used ….
00:49:57 Interviewer: [inaudible 00:49:58]
00:49:58 Prakhaim: … continued to be used at that time and also they were part of the Koranic Text,
00:50:07 and I was interested in understanding such words in Koran and I have some research on this regard.
00:50:17 I started a project on this regard. Yeah.
00:50:22 Interviewer: To go back, do you remember the poem, the first poem that makes you …?
00:50:27 Prakhaim: Well, in fact,
00:50:31 I’m interested in the pre-Islamic Arabian poetry which goes back to the so-called Jahiliyyah poetry
00:50:37 or the Jahiliyyah Age or the ignorance period.
00:50:42 For example, the poems of Antar and Zuhayr bin Abi Sulma and other poets.
00:50:52 Interviewer: Can you recite one?.
00:50:54 Prakhaim: Well, no. Not .. No. Also, [inaudible 00:50:59] and other people. Other people.
00:51:02 I wasn’t prepared to do this, because if you-
00:51:07 Interviewer: Then I'd like to go back to the last thing which you said about Koranic.
00:51:11 Prakhaim: Yeah.
00:51:12 Interviewer: What are you doing with that?
00:51:18 You see that it also notice disconnect from the people, but somehow it’s a language form that is not-
00:51:24 Prakhaim: I mean, the poetry was definitely not connected.
00:51:29 It emerged in a cultural context, of course, because this poetry describes the people,
00:51:37 describes their relationship with the environment. It describes also their understanding of the world at that time.
00:51:47 Interviewer: Sorry.
00:51:47 I mean, when we go back to do Koran, the Koranic, you were saying that you now, with what you’re finding,
00:51:53 you are finding new words also for the Koran or you find new lexical-
00:52:00 Prakhaim: No. I’m not finding new words. No.
00:52:01 I mean, well, there are certain Koranic words that could be interpreted in a different way.,
00:52:12 Okay, the Arab [inaudible 00:52:13] they contributed a lot to understanding the Koran,
00:52:18 but in some cases we can do more to understand this text through the languages that existed in Arabia at that time.
00:52:29 Interviewer: Because they have also their roots?
00:52:36 Prakhaim: Yes, of course. I mean, such words, they have their roots in the languages of Arabia before Islam. Yeah.
00:52:43 I mean, we have, for example, some words that were Arabized. They became Arabic.
00:52:50 Although they are foreign words, but they became Arabic and they became part of the Arabian linguistic culture
00:52:58 and you found them in different pre-Islamic Arabian texts.
00:53:05 Also, some of them are known in the Koranic text, because they are not in fact … they were foreign words,
00:53:15 but they were Arabized. They took the Arabic shape.
00:53:20 As usual, in the interchange between languages, it’s known and have been-
00:53:24 Interviewer: You are discovering that now from your …?
00:53:28 Prakhaim: Well, I’m trying to deal with certain words and to understand them in a different lexical context.
00:53:42 Interviewer: What do you mean by that?
00:53:46 Prakhaim: I mean, to interpret them in the light of ancient Semitic languages that existed in Arabia before Islam.
00:53:51 Interviewer: Can you give examples?,
00:53:55 Prakhaim: Yes. There are some examples.,
00:53:59 I mean, for example, the verse [foreign language 00:54:03] which has been interpreted, “We opened your chest,”
00:54:13 and there are different interpretations, but we go back, for example, to ancient South Arabian linguistic culture,
00:54:22 we find that the root “ [sharha 00:54:24] ”, it means to protect, which means, in fact,
00:54:28 if we reinterpret this word, it means that we … I mean, God has protected Muhammad’s heart.
00:54:40 This helps us to understand the text in a better way and it’s for the benefit of Koran, in fact.
00:54:47 It’s for the benefit of Koran to use the ancient languages and to shed light on Koran through other language,
00:55:00 other Arabian languages..
00:55:01 Interviewer: Okay. Then we go back to when you .. We were with your students.
00:55:06 You were with your students in the mountains, looking at the stones and this enormous terrain.
00:55:13 When you look for them and for yourself, when you envision your future, the ideal dream of what they can do,
00:55:24 what you can do here in this area, how do you envision that over 10, 15 years?
00:55:32 Prakhaim: Well, how do I envision my students or the field in general?.
00:55:37 Interviewer: [inaudible 00:55:36] I put the question wrong.
00:55:42 When you look in your field of work with your students, you would walk into boundaries, as what you explained before.
00:55:51 What do you envision for the coming 10 years or what do you want them to find out
00:55:57 and what is it that you yourself want to find out?
00:56:00 Prakhaim: I would like to continue in this field,
00:56:05 and of course I hope that my students can continue as well because this is a message that we have to hand out to other
00:56:18 future generations. I hope that we can establish a kind of school, I mean, a school, academic school, to understand ...
00:56:29 Which aims at understanding our Arabian culture from the Arabian Peninsula and also in the Levant. Yeah.
00:56:38 That’s what my aim, that they continue on the same discipline
00:56:43 and also that they continue also in training the future generations.
00:56:49 Interviewer: When you look, because you walk into limitations,
00:56:54 you said you were the first one that shed a light in an era where much of the people, you didn’t see the light.
00:57:02 What do you think that your students will … what kind of windows are they able to open?.
00:57:07 Prakhaim: Well, I hope .. I mean, of course they can … I don’t know.
00:57:15 I mean, it’s of course their decision to follow my discipline or not,
00:57:21 but definitely they are going to contribute in understanding the Arabian culture in its widest context.
00:57:31 I'd like them to work on the history of Arabic.
00:57:40 I would advise them to work intensively on the history of Arabic as a language and culture.
00:57:51 For the future, I think because they have now a wide knowledge, I mean, a wide knowledge in languages,
00:58:00 modern languages and also ancient languages,
00:58:03 and they have also the capability … they are capable to deal with other cultures.
00:58:12 Not only ancient cultures, also more modern cultures in the world.
00:58:18 I think they have more and better opportunity than I have, what I had before. Yeah.
00:58:24 Interviewer: A lot of stones, too.
00:58:26 Prakhaim: Yes.
00:58:27 I mean, okay, we have to continue documenting the inscriptions spread all over the Jordanian terrain
00:58:39 and this needs many generations in the future to be prepared for this task.
00:58:48 It’s not a task of one generation or two generations.
00:58:52 We have to train many generations so that they can continue documenting our cultural heritage.
00:59:00 I mean, not only stones and inscriptions, but also archeology and tangible heritage and intangible heritage.
00:59:10 I can’t divide culture into parts. They are all interconnected.
00:59:18 There are a lot of aspects that are interconnected and can … after my studying these aspects,
00:59:27 we can draw a clear picture about our culture.
00:59:32 Interviewer: What are you doing now? What is your focus now?
00:59:39 Prakhaim: Now, I am involved in different projects and research endeavors in general.
00:59:51 I’m now conducting a field work.
00:59:53 It’s a long … It’s a field work which I’m going to continue for the next few years in the so-called
01:00:08 [Harra 01:00:08] Region, in the volcanic region we visited.
01:00:16 I’m also trying to involve foreign institutions to work with me in this field work.
01:00:28 We are trying to document as far as possible the ancient North Arabian inscriptions from Northern Jordan
01:00:36 and from the so-called Northeastern Badia.
01:00:43 It has a lot of … I mean, the surfaces of stones constituted an ideal [canva 01:00:51] for writing inscriptions.
01:00:54 Those inscriptions were written by people who were in the area.
01:01:04 Maybe they had a Bedouin character, but it is not definite,
01:01:09 and there is a countless number of inscriptions in this area
01:01:13 and they need to be documented for future studies so that we understand more and more about the people and the area
01:01:22 and the history of the area.
01:01:23 Interviewer: When you look around you, the whole Jordan, this was a land of milk and honey.
01:01:29 Prakhaim: Yes.
01:01:29 Interviewer: I mean, it’s one big archeological black hole you still have to discover.
01:01:35 Prakhaim: Yes. I mean, I’m not the only person.
01:01:38 In fact, in my institute at the Yarmouk University and the other institutes you saw today,
01:01:45 you have found out that we are trying to train students and to train new generation to take the burden,
01:01:54 to continue this responsibility in studying the cultural heritage of Jordan.
01:01:58 Interviewer: What I want to say, all these rocks have a story.
01:02:05 Prakhaim: Yes, of course.
01:02:05 Interviewer: You are the one so far that found some of the stories,
01:02:08 but I mean this is one big landscape of rocks wanting to speak.
01:02:13 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact, this is true, but-
01:02:20 Interviewer: What is true? Sorry?
01:02:20 Prakhaim: I mean, everywhere you find inscriptions, everywhere you find aspects of cultural heritage here in Jordan.
01:02:28 As I said, we need generations and generations that continue to document and study this cultural heritage.
01:02:37 It is an evidence that this area contributed in the human history.
01:02:41 It is an evidence … What we see here is an evidence that this area, this region contributed to the human creativity.
01:02:49 It’s an evidence on human creativity.
01:02:56 We are trying to widen the spectrum of this knowledge, not only among the academics
01:03:06 but also among the local community so that they can feel that they have old history and they are proud of.
01:03:12 Interviewer: So that they understand that old history and that they’re proud of it?
01:03:17 Prakhaim: Yes.
01:03:20 This is our intention, not only studying the cultural heritage in academic way, but also to let people know
01:03:28 and to let the community know that they have ancient history which contributed in the development of humanity as part
01:03:36 of the development of civilizations. Yeah.
01:03:40 Interviewer: It’s quite a struggle.
01:03:41 Prakhaim: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. This is something … but this is evident. I mean, as you see, everywhere …
01:03:56 Interviewer: For you, it is evident.
01:03:57 Prakhaim: Huh?
01:03:57 Interviewer: For you, it’s evident, but this is also for the people evident?
01:04:01 Prakhaim: I mean, for the people, I don’t think so.
01:04:03 I don’t think that old people in Jordan, it’s evident for them that Petra, for example,
01:04:13 that it’s contributed in the human development and the human civilizations.
01:04:17 For my father, for example, he never visited Petra.
01:04:23 He’s from the local Jordanian community, but he didn’t visit Petra before. I’m speaking of myself. Yes.
01:04:33 Interviewer: Why not?
01:04:36 Prakhaim: Well, okay, he’s 72 years old. He has his own interests.
01:04:44 He’s a businessman and he’s maybe not interested in this field,
01:04:50 but I promised him to take home to Petra in maybe one or two years. I’m trying to convince him. My concern-.
01:05:00 Interviewer: Is it difficult to convince him? You are the one that ...
01:05:07 Prakhaim: Yes. That’s [crosstalk 01:05:07]
01:05:08 Interviewer: … discovered its history, I mean.
01:05:08 Prakhaim: This is the paradox because I'm the one who should make him aware about our ancient heritage,
01:05:18 but I'm now concerned …
01:05:20 Interviewer: What you’re saying is, it is strange, your father-
01:05:26 Prakhaim: Yes.
01:05:26 Interviewer: You want … you opened the window and your father has to be convinced to join you
01:05:32 and look through the window?
01:05:33 Prakhaim: Yes, through my window. Yeah. Yes, this is a kind of paradox.
01:05:40 I can’t explain that, but he didn’t get the right education to be aware of the importance of our cultural heritage.
01:05:50 We are trying this within the generation now. Yeah.
01:05:53 Interviewer: When you look at this paradox,
01:05:56 because your father stands for much more people than … he stands for the Jordan, for the general opinion about it.
01:06:04 Prakhaim: No, not necessarily general opinion. No.
01:06:07 I mean, in his age, there are people who are interested, who are interested in this heritage and-
01:06:13 Interviewer: Is it sometimes, do you feel lonely … Is it sometimes difficult to know so much of that beautiful era
01:06:22 and, as you see, so many people that you’re going to convince or try to convince,
01:06:29 is it also a lonely feeling that you are one of the few that understands it?
01:06:33 Prakhaim: Yes. Sometimes, yes. Yeah, this is true.
01:06:37 I feel myself sometimes alone even among my colleagues at the university.
01:06:44 Interviewer: Why? How come? Why?
01:06:45 Prakhaim: I mean, not in my faculty, but in general.
01:06:47 Interviewer: Yeah, but it was-
01:06:49 Prakhaim: Young generation now is interested in different things, in IT and business administration, finance,
01:06:58 et cetera.
01:07:00 This field is not … Okay, it’s respected in Jordan, but students mostly are interested,
01:07:10 or young generation is interested in majors through which they can earn money.
01:07:19 I have to admit, through archeology and heritage, this is sometimes difficult. Yeah.
01:07:28 Interviewer: That makes you lonely?
01:07:31 Prakhaim: Well, yeah. Maybe yes. Yeah.
01:07:35 Maybe, but I have some colleagues here in Jordan with whom I can communicate and exchange ideas.
01:07:43 I have also colleagues from Europe and the States, in the United States, and we exchange ideas and opinions,
01:07:51 but mostly we remain in the academic realm. That’s the problem..
01:07:57 The challenge now, how to raise awareness about the importance ..
01:08:03 I mean, how to raise awareness among the community members about this important cultural heritage,
01:08:10 which should be disseminated and get known to a wide range of people. This is a challenge.
01:08:18 I mean, okay, as an academic, I do my part, but there are other parties that can work with us.
01:08:27 For example, the media now, media can reach everybody in his room
01:08:32 and I think we have to work on this now in the next stage.
01:08:37 Interviewer: Yeah.
01:08:40 Then you do your start with the rest of the history of Jordan because this also has to be discovered
01:08:49 or has to be understood?
01:08:52 Prakhaim: Yeah. It have to be studied, discovered, explored. Yeah, but I’m just one person.
01:08:58 That’s why I said that we have to build a generation to get involved in studying this culture.
01:09:07 Interviewer: Yeah. What is your dream? When you’re thinking 10, 15 years, what is your ideal Jordan look like?
01:09:21 Prakhaim: Jordan-
01:09:23 Interviewer: As in, in your-
01:09:24 Prakhaim: In my field?
01:09:25 Interviewer: In your field.
01:09:27 Prakhaim: Yes.
01:09:28 I expect or I hope and wish that we are going to establish an academic school here in Jordan,
01:09:41 academic school not in terms of university or in the way of thinking in this field.
01:09:48 I think I’m part of this generation now, because I was trained in Jordan for my BA and MA,
01:09:55 and I’m very proud to get my first training in Jordan and it was consolidated by my study in Germany
01:10:03 and my academic stays in Europe and the United States.
01:10:09 I’m sure that we are going further and try with the future generation, of course, to build this academic school,
01:10:22 this academic school of thought in the field of cultural heritage in general. Yeah.
01:10:30 Interviewer: When you look at the field where you’re now researching, where we were before,
01:10:35 is it like … that’s quite a lot of work also, all those stones. Are all those stones ready?
01:10:44 Prakhaim: Yeah, not all the stones.
01:10:46 As we have seen yesterday, we had to penetrate in the desert for 40 kilometers to find the place,
01:10:54 to find the site where we worked before.
01:10:59 Yes,
01:10:59 there's a countless number of such inscriptions that’s spread over the stones in the desert right there in the north,
01:11:07 I mean, Northeastern Badia. Yeah, of course, they need expertise. They need scholars.
01:11:13 They need more trained students and also research institutions.
01:11:19 It was I suggested once a day to establish a kind of a research center there in the desert, so that such inscriptions,
01:11:32 such archeology, such science can be easily accessible to us. Yeah.
01:11:39 I mean, this is one of my dreams, to establish a research center there.
01:11:45 Speaker 1: Where do they publish their findings?
01:11:48 Interviewer: Where do they publish their findings?
01:11:49 Prakhaim: Well, usually either we publish the findings in books or we publish them in journals in different languages,
01:11:59 Arabic, German, English. Yeah.
01:12:02 Those languages are accessible for us, and sometimes in French, because some of my colleagues graduated from France
01:12:13 and England, for example, and they prefer to write in the languages they mastered.
01:12:20 Interviewer: Here in Jordan?.
01:12:23 Prakhaim: Yes. Of course, we have ..
01:12:25 In fact the academic situation and the level of education in Jordan is good here
01:12:34 and it has a high standard in comparison to other institutions in the region.
01:12:42 Interviewer: Can you, for example, also the stories that shed light on this era, pre-Islamic era,
01:12:48 is it easy to share it with the general public? Is it allowed?
01:12:56 Prakhaim: Yeah, of course. Yes. Yeah, yeah. I mean, we can share it with the public.
01:13:01 We hold conferences about our new discoveries.
01:13:03 In a few, I think it will … we are planning for a workshop I think in March,
01:13:12 2016 on this subject about new discoveries in Jordan, new epigraphical discoveries in Jordan. Yes.
01:13:22 There's no problem to share the information with the public, because sometimes we compose our articles
01:13:33 and research papers in Arabic and Arabic is accessible for everybody in Jordan.
01:13:40 Interviewer: Now that you kind of mentioned about it, but I’m also meaning is it is sometimes, I suppose,
01:13:45 difficult to … when you have a lot of people who think of the time before as ignorant, as an ignorant time,
01:13:56 to let them know and look through this window, you see a different world.
01:14:01 Prakhaim: Yes. Yeah..
01:14:01 Interviewer: Like what you’re saying about what you’re doing with [inaudible 01:14:05]
01:14:06 Prakhaim: Yeah, this is true.
01:14:09 In fact, the best way is to implement
01:14:13 or to use the modern media to make the people aware about what we are discovering.
01:14:22 I’m trying my best now to convince my university to integrate this discipline, this academic discipline,
01:14:34 into different academic fields.
01:14:39 Not only in archeology, in the archeological context, but also maybe in the Department of Arabic Studies,
01:14:50 because the Arabic Studies, Departments of Arabic Studies in the Arab world,
01:14:57 they are in fact not totally concerned with the ancient sources that we encounter in Arabia before Islam.
01:15:07 Interviewer: What is the essence of what they are finding, what you are finding?
01:15:13 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact, it’s very essential to understand cultural, historical aspects on the basis of inscriptions.
01:15:27 For example,
01:15:29 we know that Arabia has had always a constant contact with the surrounding that we discovered through the inscriptions,
01:15:39 through the texts. We know, for example, that Arabia had contacts with Egypt, with Greece, with Asia, with the other ...
01:15:50 With the Asian Modern Turkey, which was Asia Minor, and also with other remote areas.
01:15:58 For example, in the Semite say, they reached Morocco and reached Tunisia and Morocco.
01:16:08 Through the inscriptions, we can find out how those people, how the Semitic people in this area were in strong
01:16:17 and constant contact with the other people in the world.
01:16:21 Interviewer: Why is it you work … You find all these findings, and it’s very important information,
01:16:28 but we look around in a part of the world where all kind of conflicts emerge now around Jordan.
01:16:35 Prakhaim: Yeah.,
01:16:35 Interviewer: Which is all about historical, well, misconceptions also. I mean, [crosstalk 01:16:43] there’s all kind.
01:16:45 You have countries that say you have to believe this and you do it like that.
01:16:49 You have groups that says it’s like this and you should do it. How is that?.
01:16:54 I can imagine that that is a lonely feeling when in this part of the world where they treat history ..
01:17:03 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact, that’s why we have to understand history in the proper way.
01:17:09 We don’t have to politicize history. This is the most dangerous thing.
01:17:20 Every group tries to say that, "I’m the one who follows the right way," but this is not true.
01:17:30 I mean, we have a basic ground, a basic ground which we have to understand it as it is.
01:17:41 We don’t have to reflect our political backgrounds on the culture.
01:17:51 If we politicize, I don’t know whether I’m using the right word, if we understand culture
01:17:57 and religion as well in their political context, definitely the result will be dangerous. Yeah.
01:18:07 Interviewer: You see that?
01:18:09 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact, that’s what’s happening now in the surrounding region. I mean, it’s difficult.
01:18:19 Yeah, every group has its own understanding
01:18:22 and they defend that in different ways because of the lack of cultural dialog. I’m dreaming of-
01:18:34 Interviewer: Could you explain to me what it means what you are doing, and what people you work with are doing,
01:18:42 for the enhancement of identity and the enrichment of identity?
01:18:46 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact, maybe as you have seen, that I’m working in different fields, but they are interrelated.
01:18:57 I’m using the information contained in the inscriptions in order to reach a certain result.
01:19:08 I’m using also information gained from cultural heritage in general, especially the intangible cultural heritage,
01:19:16 to put these results together in order to show how cultural heritage in general is important for identity.
01:19:28 In fact, identity is not contained only in inscriptions, but also in other sources.
01:19:36 I mean, for example, the Arabian poetry is part of our history. It’s part of our identity, or the Arabic poetry.
01:19:45 Also, the Holy Book, Koran, is also part of our identity.
01:19:50 Of course, it’s written in Arabic and I think it’s very crucial
01:19:55 and important to understand what the others wrote about Koran.
01:20:02 There are several institutions in Europe and the United States that take care … I mean,
01:20:09 that study Koran from a different perspective and a different methodology.
01:20:18 A lot of studies appeared in the last 20 years about Koran from Germany, France, and other countries in the world,
01:20:28 but I have the problem,
01:20:31 or I think I would suggest to the academic institutions in the Arab world to start understanding what the Europeans
01:20:43 wrote about this book, about this Holy Book in fact,
01:20:49 so that we can understand from the methodological level how the European scholars study Koran.
01:20:57 Because studying the Koran traditionally,
01:21:03 without taking into consideration the new publications written in different languages, for example in German, French
01:21:15 or Russian, I don’t know, I think it would lead to a kind of … I don’t know.
01:21:24 It could lead to a kind of misunderstanding of the others and their work concerning Koran.
01:21:33 Because it’s, for me, important to show how Europeans dealt with the Koran in general especially in the last 20,
01:21:46 50 years ago.
01:21:48 All their literature about Koran mostly translated into Arabic and we knew the contents of it, but in the last 20,
01:21:58 50 years, we have … I mean, Arab scholars who has no access to foreign languages, this will remain for them closed.
01:22:08 I mean, this literature written in other languages remains for them closed. They don’t know a lot about it.
01:22:18 That’s why I suggest that we start translating this into Arabic. Yeah.
01:22:25 Interviewer: That’s the core of who you are. I mean, languages are the key.
01:22:32 Prakhaim: Yes, are the key of cultures. Yeah.
01:22:35 Interviewer: Also to understand identity, your own identity.
01:22:39 Prakhaim: Yes, of course.
01:22:40 I mean, well, studying ancient written sources that are written in Arabian languages
01:22:49 and studying also their cultural connotations in addition to their cultural backgrounds,
01:23:00 and this would shed the light on the people who wrote these texts and also make them feel proud about our identity.
01:23:09 Interviewer: And understanding their identity.
01:23:11 Prakhaim: Yeah, and to understand it in a proper way. Yeah.
01:23:14 Interviewer: Yeah.
01:23:16 For that reason, the languages, the understanding of languages form the basis for … You know what I mean?
01:23:25 Prakhaim: Yes, of course. The languages are the keys.
01:23:30 They are the keys to cultures, and cultural values are contained in cultures.
01:23:41 Studying the languages is of course the key to understand the cultural backgrounds.
01:23:48 Especially regarding ancient civilizations, because they don’t exist anymore,
01:23:56 but we have the text that have been left by those who composed them.
01:24:03 We can get some glimpses about the cultural background from these texts
01:24:13 and they would help us in enhancing the identity.
01:24:18 Interviewer: That’s why your work is so important.
01:24:20 Prakhaim: Thank you very much.
01:24:20 Interviewer: Don’t you think yourself that it's important?
01:24:24 Prakhaim: Yeah, of course.
01:24:25 I mean, I think it’s an important discipline, which should be supported in every Jordanian institution.
01:24:37 Academic institution, I mean.
01:24:38 Interviewer: And by every Jordanian.
01:24:41 Prakhaim: Yes, of course.
01:24:43 First of all, we have to start in the academic institutions,
01:24:47 and then we should think in a further step how to disseminate this knowledge among the local communities.
01:24:56 Interviewer: Yeah..
01:24:56 There’s also people that visit Petra, for example, understand what Petra is and that’s [crosstalk 01:25:01]
01:25:02 Prakhaim: Yes, of course. Yeah.
01:25:02 Interviewer: Because now it’s sometimes used as a kind of a … not a-
01:25:05 Prakhaim: Well, yeah, this is the difficult story to film because now Petra is being consumed,
01:25:12 if we remain investing it in this way.
01:25:18 I feel that Petra is part of our identity here in Jordan and we have to preserve it.
01:25:26 and safeguard it as a cultural space for the future generations because it is ..
01:25:35 I mean, a site like Petra is a place which is unparalleled in the world.
01:25:47 We are very proud to have it, but we have in the same time to do our best to safeguard it
01:25:54 and also to present it in a proper way.
01:25:58 In addition to it being as part of our identity in Jordan,
01:26:09 I think it’s also a source for income generation for the national income.
01:26:20 We have the ability here in Jordan to start working on the sites in a proper way to conserve it
01:26:29 and to safeguard it for future generations. This also can be applied to other sites in Jordan.
01:26:39 As you mentioned before, Jordan is a museum. It’s an open museum.
01:26:45 If you travel from the north to the south, you will always encounter cultural heritage sites or nature sites,
01:26:56 and they constitute of course a part of our local identity.
01:27:01 Interviewer: They only have to see it then?
01:27:03 Prakhaim: Yes. I mean, this is an important thing as well.
01:27:06 We have to make the people aware, aware of the importance of such archeological sites or heritage sites in general.
01:27:15 Interviewer: Because by understanding it, they understand their own identity?
01:27:21 Prakhaim: Yeah, definitely.
01:27:22 Interviewer: That they understand they are more than just an Islamic
01:27:26 or just they’re more … that there’s more than the Islamic history?
01:27:36 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact, I feel that this part is not certain. I mean, like-
01:27:39 Interviewer: Okay, okay.
01:27:40 Prakhaim: I mean, Islam is also a part of our history, part of our identity as well. If you want to … I don’t know.
01:27:49 Do you want me to say it again?
01:27:54 Interviewer: Well, you can say it in … Yeah, you can say it again the way you like.
01:27:57 Prakhaim: Yes.
01:27:58 In fact, it’s not only the cultural heritage is part of our identity
01:28:03 and the religious identity of the people who are living in Jordan is part of the entire identity of the Jordanian
01:28:15 community.
01:28:17 We have Muslims, we have Christians here in Jordan,
01:28:19 but they constitute … both religions here in Jordan are part of our identity as Jordanians in whole.
01:28:27 Interviewer: And Arabs as a whole?
01:28:31 Prakhaim: Yeah, yeah. As Arabs of course, yes.
01:28:33 Interviewer: Yeah. So a lot of work to do for you?
01:28:38 Prakhaim: Yes. In fact, I am an individual, but I’m trying my best.
01:28:45 As I mentioned, I hope that we can cooperate with the young generation too, then to have a group of researchers,
01:28:59 a group of interested people, not only from the academic institutions
01:29:06 but also from the local communities to work together
01:29:11 and to cooperate so that we can enhance our identity as Jordanians, as Muslims, Christians, and as Arabs.
01:29:22 Interviewer: Yeah.
01:29:23 Prakhaim: Yeah.
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