Stories & Tales
The Bird With Golden Wings

One of two plays written for al-hakawati by Ghanem R. Dajani.





SALAM ALAIKUM. This is how we greet one another in Arabic. Literally, it means PEACE BE UPON YOU.
The title of today"s story is:




RAJI, a boy of 12 years, woke up one spring morning, hearing the singing of a bird coming from the garden. His cat, NuNu, jumped towards the window to find out who it was singing in the garden.

They both saw, high on a fig tree, a beautiful bird with golden wings, red beak, and a purple tail.

Raji loved birds a lot. Once, he had a bird. He put it in a cage, but the cat was very jealous and kept bothering the bird by standing outside its cage.

Raji, also, did not quite like the idea of caging birds. He thought that birds were born to fly free. So he let his bird out of the cage.

The new bird with golden wings jumped from branch to branch and kept singing in a cheerful way.

Raji wanted to make this beautiful bird a good friend of his.

He took his old cage up to the fig tree, hung it high, put some water and plenty of cereals inside it, and kept the cage"s door wide open.

Soon, the visiting bird with golden wings entered the cage, drank and ate, flew in and out freely, and kept singing a beautiful song that gave Raji great pleasure.




Raji gave a name to his lovely bird FiFi. FiFi the bird and NuNu the cat.

Raji spent his holidays at home, and had a lot of fun playing with FiFi and NuNu and enjoying the wonderful stories of his Grandma.

His Grandma was a good storyteller, but she would not tell him a story unless Raji help her in weaving the wall carpets. His Grandma was very good at making carpets and Raji"s father sold the carpets for a good price in shops in town.

At the beginning Raji didn’t quite like weaving carpets because it took a lot of time. But he had to do it for the sake of hearing his Grandma"s exciting stories.

Raji soon learned the skill of carpet weaving. His Grandma was very glad. She kept telling and singing a well known verse:


A skill in hand is an everlasting treasure
It protects you from need and gives you




One day, Raji"s father wanted to visit his older brother who lived far away in a small town.

Raji asked his father to take him along. He loved the idea of riding on the back of a horse and discovering new lands and meeting his family who lived far away.

Early in the morning they set off carrying waterskins, lots of dates and dried bread for the long journey which was to take about two weeks on the road.

They didn’t forget to bring presents for every member of the family.




On the very long roads Raji thought about his two best friends at home - NuNu the cat, and FiFi the bird with golden wings, red beak, and a purple tail. Raji said he would tell his cousins and uncle a lot about them.

At first, the journey was very pleasant. They galloped every day for a few hours, and then rested to feed the horses, and spend the night in a resthouse.

“To travel on horse back is a nice idea," Raji told his father. "I"ll tell everyone about it, including NuNu and FiFi.”

But one day on the long roads the weather suddenly changed. The clouds became very dark. A heavy wind blew, and huge thunderstorms roared in the wilderness.

The horses jumped with fright and ran astray.

Raji could not see his father nor could he hear him anymore.

He screamed for help.

His father could not hear him either. He was trying to control his frightened horse. For hours the thunderstorms roared and blasted. The weather was terrible.

Raji"s horse went mad. He jumped and neighed. Jumped and kicked like any frightened animal.

Raji could no longer control the horse. He was tired and scared. The poor boy fell of the horse, and when he hit the ground he became unconscious.




When the thunderstorms calmed down Raji opened his weary eyes to find himself alone in the wilderness. No father. No horse. No food.

He also could not tell where he was.

Indeed, he was in real danger.

“Am I going to die in the wilderness?” he asked himself. “What can I do? My legs are weak, I can’t walk, I am very, very tired.”

Actually he could do nothing but wait for a miracle, a God-given miracle.




A God-given miracle happened.

Raji heard the galloping of a horse coming from a long distance. Could it be his father looking for him? Surely, his father wouldn’t leave without him, he said to himself. He crept and slowly climbed a high rock.

In a few minutes he saw that the approaching horse was not his father"s, and the rider was a stranger.

Raji decided to seek help. He quickly took off his shirt, waved it high, and shouted "Help! Help!" The man heard and came to rescue the boy.




"Sure, your father looked for you, and would keep looking, but it would be a big risk for you to wait for him?" the man said.

Raji did not know what to answer.

"I can"t wait with you for long. Anyhow, the storm was severe, and your father might be miles and miles away," the man said.

Again, Raji could not make any decision.

"You"d better come with me, and perhaps later we can find a solution."

Raji had no other choice. He accepted to go with the man; who pulled him up on the back of his horse and off they went.




During the long ride, they got acquainted. Raji told Uncle Ahmad - that was the name of the man - about his family including his best friends NuNu and FiFi.

But Raji"s mind was thinking all the time how he could reunite with his own family.

He thought of writing a note to them, but the mail at that time was not organized, and there was not even a mailman coming to the village where Uncle Ahmad lived.

Anyhow, Uncle Ahmad and all members of his family were very nice. They treated Raji as if he was their own son. Raji loved them and did his best to be very helpful and obedient. And they appreciated that.




Feeling the pain of being far away from his own family, Raji felt the need every day and night to find a way to let his parents know where he was.

Many times he cried and sobbed in silence.

Many times he wrote letters he could not send to his parents.

Many times he drew the pictures of NuNu and FiFi.

Many times he wrote with big letters the verses of wisdom that his Grandma used to sing for him:


A skill in hand is an everlasting treasure
It protects you from need and gives you


"Skill in hand," Raji said to himself one night, "I have a skill, I can weave a carpet. Could this answer my need, and help solve my problem?"

And Raji, one night, thought of a plan hopefully would bring him together with his own family.




Raji remembered that during the Pilgrimage Season, a contest was held for the best hand-woven carpets at al-¬Madina, the second holy city in Islam. Raji"s father would usually attend this contest every year to sell the carpets his Grandma had woven.

"I"ll weave a good carpet for the contest." Raji said to himself. "I have the skill. My Grandma taught me. And my carpet will attract every eye."

"But how can I make my carpet carry a message to my father?" Raji asked himself.

"Should I weave my name in the bottom of the carpet? No. This goes against the rules of the contest." Raji said. "Should I weave the verses of wisdom my Grandma used to sing to me?"


A skill in hand is an everlasting treasure
It protects you from need and gives you


"No. Many Grandmas, fathers, and mothers would tell or recite such well-known verses." Raji said to himself.

He thought for a long time then fell asleep. That night Raji had a dream.

He dreamt that FiFi his beautiful bird at home, with golden wings, red beak, and purple tail, was shut in his cage. FiFi tried hard to open the door but could not. FiFi twittered and twittered as if he was crying for his freedom. As if he was calling his friend Raji to come to his rescue.

NuNu, his cat, miaowed and miaowed to draw the attention of everybody at home.

Raji"s father, in the dream of course, climbed the fig tree where FiFi"s cage was hung and opened the door for the closed-in bird.

Raji woke up from the dream with his hand clutched on his neck. He sat in his bed thinking.




A few months later, Uncle Ahmad carried Raji’ carpet to the contest. It was really a very beautiful one with charming colors and designs. Raji wanted his carpet to be an attraction to every eye, and indeed it was.

But what was the message, Raji"s message to his father?




Raji"s message was inspired by the dream he had about his friends, FiFi, the bird in the closed door cage, and NuNu, the cat that miaowed for help. This dream went into the design of the carpet.

Right in the center of the carpet Raji wove a bird with golden wings, red beak, and purple tail inside a cage. FiFi"s shape and colors, and Raji"s cage high in the fig tree at home.

In each of the four corners of his carpet Raji wove one of the letters NuNu, in a very clever way. The letters became part and parcel of the original design.

Raji said to himself, "If my father sees the design of my carpet he will, hopefully, recognize colors of my bird, FiFi. Again, hopefully, he letters on the four corners of my carpet.

"Will my father put together the letters NuNu and the shape and colors of FiFi, my bird?" Raji asked himself. He hoped his plan would work.




The carpet contest started on time. Many people, from all over the world, attended. In front of Raji"s carpet stood his father, attracted by the design and colors.

Soon, the father felt strongly that the carpet was saying something to him. He got his son"s message. He saw that the letters NuNu made the name of the cat, and the colors of FiFi pointed to Raji"s bird.

Raji"s father soon asked who brought the carpet to the contest. Few hours later he met Uncle Ahmad who was glad to find Raji’s father and accompany him home where Raji was staying.




Back at home, Raji"s home, the whole family celebrated the return of their clever son and listened to the story of his wisdom, his longing for home and his love.

NuNu the cat was present during the celebrations enjoying the food of the party, and FiFi the bird was chanting on the fig tree branches, the best melodies of freedom. The family was reunited.

In Arabic, we say to end a story:

Salamu aleikum. Peace be upon you.
And thank you for coming to hear our story.