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Sugar story (Juha, the famous Arab comical hero)

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 18.02.2006:

Juha, a famous Arab rascal, is known for his wisdom but also his practical jokes. The neighbours did not like his outrageous behaviour, and seduced him to join a journey to a lonely area at the sea shore. There they threatened to drown him if he did not swear a solemn oath to stop his naughty behaviour and to eat “salt” with them. But because he already had an agreement with the Jinn (spirits), and had eaten “salt” with them, he refused to comply with their wish. “O.K.,” they told him, “we keep you here. When you have not changed your opinion by midnight, we will drown you.” They bound him to a tree and left.

Late that afternoon, a shepherd with a large flock of sheep passed by. The shepherd asked Joha what happened. He told him that he was bound to a tree for refusing to eat sugar. Now the shepherd was very fond of eating sugar. Juha friendly proposed that he should take his place. In the hope to get sugar, the simple shepherd changed clothes with Juha and taught him how he could call the sheep. Juha left, expecting that his neighbours would allow the man to go his way when they would see that he himself had escaped. But because they were in a hurry, and with the darkness at night, the wind, and the sound of the waves, and the fact that the shepherd imitated Juha’s voice very well, the neighbours did not discover the trick. When the poor shepherd told them that he would eat sugar, they threw him into the sea.

Great was their surprise when Juha marched cheerfully into the village with a fine flock of sheep. Juha told them that the Jinn had rewarded him for sticking to his agreement with them. Juha’s neighbours were impressed and asked how they could obtain the Jinn’s friendship. Juha advised them to jump in the sea at midnight on the same day of the week as that on which they had tried to drown him. They disappeared and were never seen again.

From: “Sahteen: Discover the Palestinian Culture by Eating”, published by the Freres School, Bethlehem, part of the Culture and Palestine series issued by the Arab Educational Institute-Open Windows, Bethlehem, 1999. To order the book, send a mail to

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