Ashara centers on three languages that have been spoken and written widely in the Middle East for four millennia. Akkadian was spoken for almost two millennia from the 23rd Century BCE. It is the language of Gilgamesh and Hammurabi’s code. Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Middle East from the 6th century BCE to 5th Century CE. It was the language of Zenobia of Palmyra, and the Christian gospels. It is still used in the Syriac Church to this day. Arabic has been the most commonly spoken language of the Middle East for over a millennium; it is the language of Islam and the vibrant modern cultures that make up the Arab world.
Histories of the Middle East over the 200 generations that these languages have been spoken often focus on discontinuity. It is easy to concentrate on the countless conflicts and conquests between the many different cultures, religions, and peoples who have lived in the region over that time. This piece instead focuses on the continuity, the shared commonality that makes up the human experience. One facet of that, is the wealth of phonic similarities these different languages share in their enumerations.
The numbers 1 to 10, when spoken by a modern Arabic speaker brought up watching Mosalsalat on TV and reading author Naguib Mahfouz, would be understood by an Aramaic speaker in Jerusalem in the days of Herod. The same ten numbers would be understood by an Akkadian governed by Hammurabi two thousand years before that.