The Bedouin Heritage Project Launch

Mark Abouzeid announced, today, the founding of the Bedouin Heritage Project. Our goal is to help realize the dream set forth by UNESCO in helping safeguard and protect Intangible Cultural heritages, in this case the Bedouin’s of Jordan’s Wadi Rum Protected Zone.

“The Bedu are settled and nomadic communities living in the southern part of Jordan, particularly near Petra and Wadi Rum, within a region of semi-arid highlands and deserts. These conditions have allowed for the development and existence in complementary relationship of both types of communities.

Several Bedu tribes, namely the Bdul, the Ammarin and the Sa’idiyyin, continue to use the Nabatean water-collecting cisterns and caves near Petra. The Bedu communities inhabiting this area keep alive a traditional pastoral culture and related skills. The Bedu of Petra and Wadi Rum have preserved specific knowledge related to the flora and fauna of the area, traditional medicine, camel husbandry, tent-making craftsmanship, and tracking and climbing skills.

The Bedu have developed an extensive knowledge of their environment and complex moral and social code, all of which is expressed and transmitted orally. Their rich mythology is manifested in various forms of oral expression, comprising poetry, folktales and songs that are closely linked to particular places and the history of these communities.

Over the last fifty years, more and more Bedu groups have settled down. The provision of education, housing, health care and sanitation has made a sedentary existence more attractive for many of them, leading, however, to the erosion of skills developed by the Bedu over generations. The increase of desert tourism and its demand for “authentic Bedu culture” should not be allowed to further degrade the intangible heritage of the Bedu in Petra and Wadi Rum.

The principal goal of the project is to safeguard the main features of the lifestyle and oral expressions of the Bedu that have developed in two selected areas of Southern Jordan (Petra and Wadi Rum region) over the course of millennia and that are being lost due to inevitable societal changes.
The action plan revolves around two projects:
* The collection and intergenerational transmission of oral heritage;
* The transmission and adaptation of knowledge and know-how.

In July, we will embark on a mission to participate in and record many facets of the Bedouin lifestyle, social system, traditions, medicine and oral history. This is the first phase of a two year project that will use the best practices of media anthropology including video, photography, recordings, journalism and art. The result from this first three week session will be:

– an itinerant multi-media exhibit across Europe to raise awareness of the Bedouins and their society;
– broadcasts through arabic news services such as Al-jazeera and BBC Arabic as well as Western media; and
– A dvd with accompanying text for schools and universities.

For more information, contact Mark Abouzeid.  Shortly, we will launch a website for the project including field updates, research and resources of interest.