Stories & Tales
Justice Traditional Style

One of two plays written for al-hakawati by Ghanem R. Dajani.
The other play is:

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:


A traditional tent made from goat wool. Rugs – large cushions – pillows - carpets. Swords - daggers - waterskin – a rababah (a Bedouin string instrument with an arch). Clay jars and pitchers. Beads of the Muslim rosary.

In front of the tent, a large round copper tray inlaid with silver. On top, a collection of shiny brass coffee pots and small coffee cups. To the right side, a fire-place with a large brass pitcher with coffee and cardamom. Near the fire a manual coffee grinder made of wood. (This probably can be used to produce a variety of percussions during the storytelling.)

On the other side another smaller fire-place in the form of a censer; from time to time some incense is thrown on the fire to produce the clean scent.

On another side a pile of pillows and cushions in the form of a couch covered with a Bedouin rug. This area will be used by the storyteller.

A display of a large veriety of percussion instruments.




I will leave it to you to decide which title you would prefer.
Let us begin.

ONCE UPON A TIME a camp site of a tribe was situated on the borderline of an Arabian desert and around a small well. Sheikh Salman was the Chief of the tribe, assisted by his elder son. He had also a very beautiful daughter. Her name was JAMILAH.

An important guest was expected to arrive in the afternoon of a spring day - Sheikh Faris, accompanied by his older son Mubarak, and companions.

Everyone in the tribe - men, women, boys and girls were very busy preparing to welcome the important guests.

Men were feeding and cleaning their stallions, and camels; shining their swords, daggers and spears. Women were cooking dinner on big fires. Boys were carrying water from the well to the site of the banquet. Young girls were giving a hand to the cooks and selecting the best sweet dates of the Arabian Oasis.

After performing the afternoon prayer, the tribe felt the wind of the approaching caravan. Sheikh Salman, the host, and his son and aides mounted their stallions and hurried to receive their guests on the outskirts of their camp.

In the large guest-tent, Sheikh Faris, wearing on his robe a long beautiful golden chain which attracted every eye, was seated on a comfortable cushion covered with a soft, velvet-like carpet. Near him sat the host Sheikh Salman. Both chiefs exchanged valuable presents and expressed their love and respect to each other.

Soon the purpose of the friendly visit began to unfold. Sheikh Faris asked the hand of Sheikh Salman"s daughter - Jamilah - in marriage for his oldest son Mubarak.

On hearing the proposal everyone was happy as such a marriage will strengthen the kinship between the two sheikhs and the two tribes.

One of Sheikh Salman"s men, called DANFAL, received the news as if a dagger had been plunged into his heart.

Danfal, young, ambitious - and sometimes greedy, loved Jamilah very much, and always hoped that one day he could convince Sheikh Salman to accept him as son-in-¬law. He deeply believed that Jamilah, the pearl of the tribe, should not marry an outsider.

Soon after the generous dinner, Sheikh Salman and his daughter Jamilah accepted the marriage proposal made by Sheikh Faris and his son, Mubarak.


At a late hour of the evening Sheikh Faris, the guest, retired to his tent for a good night’s sleep.
But the night was hiding in the dark an unhappy surprise for all.


In the morning Sheikh Faris, the guest of honour of the tribe, discovered the loss of his golden chain which surely he put near his pillow, as was his habit when he removed it at night.

In all measures the incident was a disaster for all concerned. To steal from a guest and a friend is a blow to all friendship and all tradition. It would reflect badly on the relations between the two tribes, and definitely on the proposed marriage.

Is it true that in every wave of happiness reside the seeds of distress? Who knows?


Sheikh Faris thought the matter thoroughly. He conferred with his son, the would-be bridegroom, Mubarak, and his companions, and made a wise decision. He decided to conceal the matter, in order to save any disgrace that would befall Sheikh Salman, and save the forthcoming kinship in marriage between both sheikhs.

Sheikh Faris was sure of one thing. The thief whoever he was, has planned to ruin the intended marriage and damage the good relations between the two friends

Surely Sheikh Faris will not make the thief succeed in his bad deeds. Yes, the stolen golden chain was very precious. BUT, the situation now demanded reason for a good outcome.


In the Guest-tent Sheikh Salman, received his guest with warm welcome.

Immediately he realized that the golden chain was not on the guest"s robe. Had it been stolen?

In his mind he put the story together and smelled a crime. He was almost sure that the thief was one of his men.
He would bring the thief to justice at any cost and make him pay for his crime.

With all politeness and warm emotions Sheikh Salman made his guest Sheikh Faris admit to the loss of the golden chain. They agreed that Sheikh Faris would stay until the Golden Cha1n was recovered.


The investigation began:

Sheikh Salman consulted with the cleverest of his Trackers who had a keen eye for traits of character. They could find no suspicious traces.

Then Sheikh Salman tried another way.

He confidentially told his men that the thief could secretly return the stolen golden chain and escape punishment.
All his efforts led nowhere. Tension mounted. Sheikh Salman"s honour was really at stake. He was very unhappy

Three nights passed without progress. More tension mounted. Sheikh Salman could not sleep anymore. He went outside his tent and thought. He aimed his weary eyes towards the sky and the glittering stars.

Being a true believer he asked help from Allah, the ALMIGHTY.

In his solitude, Sheikh Salman heard the whinnying of his deep-black horse, ADHAM. What made him neigh at this hour of the night?

Adham, come here. Sheikh Salman whispered in the darkness of the night. And the horse Adham walked to him. He lowered his head and rubbed it on his master"s hands and chest.

You feel with me, the master said. You realize how embarrassed I am. My honour is at stake, Adham.

The horse neighed and trotted.

I wish you could speak. I wish you could say something.

Adham the horse neighed and trotted again.

I know you are unable to speak, Adham, but probably you can guide me, you can express yourself in motion, the master said.

The horse quickly moved his head, waved his tail and trotted.

From his tent, not far away, came Salem, Sheikh Salman"s beloved son. Father, what are you doing at this hour of the night?

I am going for a ride, the father said. And off he went giving a free rein to his horse. Take me wherever you want Adham.

And, in the darkness of the night the horse took off in full speed, until he stopped at an isolated tent.

From it, with a candle in hand, came out an old woman. What brought you at this late hour Sheikh Salman?

My horse brought me here, he said.

You want to talk? The old woman asked.

Yes, respectful Salima, I need your wisdom.

Come in Sheikh Salman, you are most welcome.

Sheikh Salman stayed more than an hour in Salima"s tent. When he left signs of relief showed on his face.

He has worked out a plan in his mind. A plan that will put an end to his suffering. Nobody should know of it, NOBODY, even his most faithful companions.


In the afternoon, the exciting show started.

Sheikh Faris sat on a raised platform covered with velvet-like carpet outside the Guest-tent.
On his right sat the wisest old woman Salima, in a white dress covering her head with nicely embroidered skyblue scarf.

In front of her she put a bowl of henna in pastry form.

In front of the guest tent, another tent was erected. Inside it Sheikh Salman"s horse, Adham, stood alone, unseen from all directions. It was a closed tent indeed.

All the men of the tribe were gathered on the right side of the horse’s tent.

One by one should walk the distance towards the horse"s tent, raise up the door, get himself inside, pull down the door of the tent so as to close completely. Then he should head towards Adham, the horse; RUB his hands with the horse"s tail.

If the man is innocent the horse will stay still and silent. But, surely the thief will not escape, because Adham, the horse, will neigh loudly to expose and disgrace him.

When going out of the tent, the man should head towards the wise old woman Salima to mark his right hand with Henna, as a sign of declared innocence.

One by one went into the horse"s tent.

The thief’s turn came. His heart started pounding. As if the hammers of justice were creating their own theme. He was scared. He put up a big effort to conceal the shaking of his hands and legs. On he went, into the tent where Adham was tied.

Inside the closed tent, behind the horse"s back, he stood still, perspiring. He dried his face and hands, and tried to calm himself down. You are alone in the tent, he said to himself. Nobody is watching.

Finally, and with difficulty, he controlled.

Since he was not seen why should he risk touching the horse"s tail? Away from it. Away, he said to himself.
Adham, the horse, kept silent. No neighing was heard. Good, the thief said. He thought he has escaped.

Out of the tent he went. In front of the wise old woman he stood.

She took his hands and smelled them. She looked him in the face and put away the henna marker.

With firm voice she declared: Our dear Sheikh Salman here is the thief, DANFAL.

Do you remember him? He is the man who desired to marry Jamilah, Sheiklh Salman’s daughter.

But how did the old woman know that he was the thief?

Can you guess?

I"ll tell you: Sheikh Salman poured on his horse"s tail a very special kind of Arabian Perfume. It is not strong but it is peculiar. As Danfal, the thief, did not rub his hands on the horse"s tail the old woman Salima could not smell the fragrance. Who else but the thief would refrain from touching the horse"s tail?

With a pleasant smile, Sheikh Faris suggested that the perfume will be hereafter called THE PERFUME OF JUSTICE.

Responding, Sheikh Salman said: Probably we better call the whole episode:

Or (to the audience) Would you rather call it

Whatever. The choice is yours.

In Arabic, we say to at the end of a story:

Salamu aleikum.
And thank you for your listening.