Stories & Tales
The Camels’ Complaint

There once lived a rich man by the name of Haj Ahmad in Damascus. He owned a great herd of camels, from which he supplied the caravans from that city.


When this man's time came to die, instead of departing quickly, he lay on his deathbed for such a long time that his friends were sure he must have injured someone who had not forgiven him. So they summoned all his acquaint¬ances to come and declare in his presence that they had no grudge against him. Even his enemies were moved by this prolonged agony, and came to his bedside. They begged Haj Ahmad to forgive them as they forgave him any wrong he might have done them. But in vain.The gates of death remained closed to him.


Finally, someone imagined that he might have offended one of his animals.


As he had had most to do with camels, it was decided to ask his camels to forgive him.


Camels are disobliging creatures, and they refused to come until a whole day's holiday had been given them in which to discuss the matter.


This was granted, and the next day thousands of camels assembled beyond the gardens of the city. Their grunting, groaning, gurgling, snuffing, puffing, wheezing made such a noise that it was heard far and wide. The camels’ debate was long and angry, but by dark they had come to a decision, which their elder and leader prepared to communicate to Haj Ahmad.


The elder camel was so huge that he looked like a mountain. Long hair hung from his sides like the tassels from a pair of saddle-bags. At every step he raised a cloud of dust that darkened the air, and his foot left a print as large as a kneading-trough. All who passed him ex¬claimed, "Mashallah! Praised be the creator!" at the same time spitting to right and left against the evil eye.


When this beast arrived at the house of Haj Ahmad, he proved to be too big for the doorway. He was asked to give his message through the window. But, as representative from the most noble of all animals, he was indignant at the suggestion and threatened to go away again. The friends of Haj Ahmad then pleaded with him to have patience while they pulled down one wall of the house.


At last the camel came to the death-bed of his master, and, kneeling down, pronounced: "Oh Haj Ahmad, be at rest, the camels forgive you; but they have sent me to tell you why you need their forgiveness. It is not for our burdens nor for the beatings we receive daily at the hands of your servants. We accept our lot in life. But, after loading us heavily and stringing us together by the dozen like beads on a rosary, to oblige us to follow the lead of a wretched little donkey -- this is what we find insufferable."

Adapted from Folklore of the Holy Land, J.E.Hanauer, Dover Publications