During our visit to the Sharjah Heritage Museum, we came across a few interesting Emirati proverbs, riddles and folklore. These are located in the children’s section of the museum. Children are able to sit comfortably and listen to audio and watch a video of stories in both Arabic and English. This would make for a great field trip for Islamic Studies, Arabic or even English. The following are a few of the offerings that are available.
Proverbs are important messages that are often used to communicate cultural and social values. They may offer advice or teach an important lesson. Here are a few Emirati Proverbs.
The one who knocks at the door gets the answer.
Meaning: You reap what you sow.
Hair loss from the moustache falls over the beard.
Meaning: If misfortune falls upon a family member, it affects the entire family.
Plates in a house are bound to clash.
Meaning: Misunderstandings are common and natural in the home.
Extend your leg to the end of your blanket.
Meaning: Spend only what you can afford.
Tie a horse to a donkey and it will imitate its sound.
Meaning: Habits are gained from those in close contact.
If it had any use, the bird would not have left it.
Meaning: Leave what others reject.
Riddles form a small part of many cultures. Most people use them to provoke thought, so as to unveil a deeper meaning. In this case, the following riddles are intended to put a smile on your face. Can you guess the correct answers to the following riddles without looking at the answers?
A. It is tall and its shadow is within… What is this?
B. It is green in the souq and red in its mother … what is this?
C. This has teeth but does not bite… what is this?
D. What has a loud voice and an empty stomach?
Select the appropriate answer: henna, drum, well, comb
The following stories are Emirati folklore told to children in order to get them to stay off the streets.
Um Karba Wa Leef – The Menacing Palm Tree
Um Karba Wa Leef is a tall, decaying palm tree that is inhabited by a djin and is believed to frighten people. It is most often found in remote places. Reading the Holy Qu’ran is believed to prevent an encounter with the fearsome palm.
An unexpected meeting with Um Karba Wa Leef occurred while a man was visiting a friend’s farm. After seeing the farmer’s well-kept palm trees, he noticed an old palm far in the distance. The farmer explained that it was Um Karba Wa Leef and warned his friend to stay away. Ignoring the farmer’s warning, he approached the tree and suddenly felt very nervous and scared. He agreed that the lone palm tree was really Um Karba Wa Leef.
Baeir Bala Ras – The Headless Camel
Baeir Bala Ras wanders the narrow streets of Sharjah and Ajman seeking revenge against the people that cut off its head. The story is told to help keep children from wandering the streets and getting into mischief.
One incident involving Baeir Bala Ras is said to have taken place in Sharjah during the early 1970s at a butcher’s shop beside the sea. After restraining a camel, the butcher prepared to cut off the animal’s head. He made a clean cut and began to untie the camel so that he could divide its meat. Suddenly, the camel rose to its feet and started running towards the sea, where it eventually collapsed and died. Witnesses were shocked and stories of the legendary camel were told to children who grew to fear the headless camel.
Um Al Helaan
Um Al Helaan is an untidy, elderly woman who tricks people into letting her into their home. Once inside, she judges the home and its owners for signs of wealth and good fortune. Before leaving she curses them using the power of her evil eye.
While a woman was hosting her friends, one afternoon, an odd looking elderly lady appeared at her door requesting for water. Feeling concerned for the stranger, the woman invited the elderly woman into her home. As the old woman sat down to drink, she looked around and started talking nonsense. Soon after, she excused herself and left. That evening, the woman of the house unexpectedly fell ill and died. Her friends finally understood that the stranger could only have been one thing – Um Al Helaan.
At the Sharjah Heritage Museum, there is something for everyone. They are open Saturday to Thursday from 8:00am – 8:00pm and on Fridays from 4:00pm – 8:00pm. English speaking tour guides are available on request. To book an appointment and for additional information call +97165680006. You can also visit their website www.sharjahmuseums.ae for additional information.
Photos and information, courtesy of the Sharjah Heritage Museum.