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1,001 Arabian, 11,000 Eritrean Nights

1001 Nights is a literary work from the Golden Ages where Shahrazad every night tells a story to the Sultan Shahryar, over 1001 nights. Remember, since 1991, Eritreans have gone through 11,000 nights of horrible experience that we have yet to narrate in a timeless literary manner, maybe we could call it 11000 nights.

In the nineties when the TPLF and EPLF were enjoying a long honeymoon, the PFDJ had a free reign in Ethiopia—that is when several people were kidnapped or assassinated in Ethiopia in mysterious circumstances: Zacharias Neguse, Gebreberhan Zere, and many others. In the early nineties, the PFDJ rounded up many people, mainly businesspeople, from all around Addis Ababa and put them in jail in the police station close to the Yohannes church. The PFDJ spread the word that they were corrupt accused of corruption, embezzlement, and other vices. Though many gave the PFDJ the benefit of the doubt, we do not know if the arrested and kidnapped people were ever indicted or were innocent.

Have we yet discovered our Ali Baba and his forty accomplices yet? Maybe we did, but a recent article identified some of those who cheered from the sides and explained why (link below).

Obviously, I can’t tell you all the 1001 stories let alone the 11000 Eritrean stories, but I have picked one very famous story from the 1001 nights: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

1001 Nights, The Arabian Nights, Alf Leila We Leila

I am sure you know many of the stories from the Arabian Nights: Ali Baba, Aladdin and the Lamp, Sindbad the sailor (Sindbad and the flying carpet) The Thief of Baghdad, Jinni, and many other Genie-stories, some with alteration by Disney and others. But the book is so famous that people would tell unrelated stories and attribute it to the 1001 nights. Just Like many jokes are attributed to Abu Nawas of Baghdad though it is mostly a license to lend credibility to the stories. If you want to grasp attention, start by saying, Abu Nawas said… It is guaranteed to get the attention of the listeners. In our time, it was “Wedi Adua entay illu mesleka…!” Wedi Adua was a known populist comedian in Asmara.

The 1001 nights was translated by many authors, travelers, and adventurers, the most flamboyant of all is Sir Richard Burton, an English soldier, traveler, writer, and linguist who is claimed to have spoken 29 languages and even collected tens of monkeys to learn their language. He is also credited for introducing the Swahili word Safari which has now become an English word as well.

Richard Burton had travelled to Harer, was jailed there, then he continued to Lake Victoria in an attempt to discover the source of the River Nile. He also introduced the illustrated Indian book of Kama Sutra which was considers too pornographic for Victorian England. Even his version of 1001 nights was awash with sexuality that it was not allowed to be publicly distributed but to private clients.

Shehryar and Shahrazad

Shehryar was a sultan who found out his wife was unfaithful and killed her. He lost trust on all women thus he decided to marry virgins and execute them the next day to deny them a chance to be unfaithful. Finally, he married Shehryar, and she devised a plan to change him. Thus, Shehryar told him a story every night and once she saw he was tired, she stopped at a cliffhanger promising to continue the story the next evening—just like they do before they air commercials on TV.

Shehryar spared her for the night curious to listen to the next part; she bought herself a night. With that trick, she survived 1001 nights telling him one story every night, a total of 1001 stories. Thus, the name of the collection of stories about fairytales, philosophy, even anatomy of the human body.

The stories have different cultural traits spanning from China, through India, Iraq, Syria, to Egypt. The book was published in the 18th century from fragments of manuscripts found different places “including fragments of a handwritten manuscript found in Syria which is dated to the 9th century.” The stories of 1001 nights are found in many popular folktales and list of authors who were inspired and influenced by 1001Nights is immense…

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

There were two brothers: Kasim was wealthy and lived good; Ali Baba was a poor woodcutter. Once time Ali Baba was cutting wood in the forest when he saw forty men coming on horsebacks, afraid, he had to hide. Their leader dismounted, went close to the mountain, and said, “Open Sesame!” A rock moved and opened the way to a cave. Everyone followed him in carrying stuff and the entrance to the cave closed behind them. A while later, the rock moved, the door opened, and they all came out. The leader shouted, “Shut Sesame” and the entrance to the cave was shut. They went away.

Ali Baba went close to the cave and said, “Open Sesame!” and the entrance was open. He found gold, silver silk and many other things inside. He took as much gold as his donkey would carry and said, “Shut Sesame!” The door closed and he went home and showed his loot to his wife who was curious and borrowed a scale from Kasim’s wife to weigh the loot. But Kasim’s wife had put a kind of glue on the scales and where Shahrazad returned the scale, she found residues of the gold on the scales. She told her husband that his brother Ali Baba is reach and has gold that needed to be weighed.

Kasim became envious and accused his brother of pretending to be poor when he was rich. Ali Baba confessed to Kasim and told him the story. Kasim took his donkeys to the cave and said< “Open Sesame!” and once inside he shouted shut Sesame, and entrance closed behind him. He loaded his donkeys but forgot the password when he wanted to get out of the cave.

In the meantime, the robbers returned to the cave and found Kasim inside. He tried to escape but they killed him and cut his body into pieces and left it in the cave to warn anyone who dares to enter the cave.

Kasim’s wife was worried and went to her brother-in-law and told him her husband had didn’t return home. Ali Baba went the cave and inside the cave he found his brother Kasim body cut into pieces.

When the thieves returned to the cave, they didn’t find Kasim’s body. One of the thieves went to town to investigate and found a man who showed him the house to where the body pieces were brought: Ali Baba’s house. He marked house to identify it when he returned with his colleagues.

Morjiana, saw the marking the robber had made and she found a way to distract them by marking many houses with the same marking near the doors. And when a robber returned that night, they found many houses marked similarly. The next day another robber was sent to investigate and made marking on the door with a different color, but Morjiana did the same to many houses. Finally, they discovered Ali Baba’s house.

The leader returned to the town in the morning masquerading as an oil merchant with mules loaded with jars where the robbers hid. But one of the jars was full of oil. Morjiana discovered the trick; she boiled the oil and poured it into the jars killing the robber inside.

Ali Baba had invited the masquerading oil merchant into his house and was entertaining him. But Morjiana knew the leader of the robbers carried a concealed dagger. She dressed like a dancer and hid a dagger in her clothes and danced for her master and his guest. Then Morjiana pulled the dagger and stabbed the man in his heart. Ali Baba was puzzled, “why did you kill my guest?”

Morjiana told Ali Baba the whole story and exposed the dagger that the pretending oil merchant has his under his garments. Ali Baba realized he was entertaining an enemy. And thanked Morjiana for saving his life. He then married her to his son, and they inherited his wealth.

NB: the above is the topic of Negarit 133 on my YouTube channel//Saleh

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of awate.com. Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism Awate.com was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of awate.com is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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  • Fanti Ghana

    Selam Memhir and All,

    Beautiful episode! I haven’t had a chance to watch for a while, the last one was episode 90 something, but today we had a “retirement lunch party.” There was obvious grouping going on between those who think retirement is 1001 years from now, those who are young at heart, like yours truly, who were dramatically stretching their retirement days to unforeseeable future, and those who were talking to god knows who but one can hear occasional laughter about some mischief at an ancient bar no longer exists on a street name no one remembers.

    Any way, I was able to sneak out unnoticed, freedom at last, and I was greeted with Alibaba, you, and forty thieves. I couldn’t resist and I am glad I didn’t. It was relaxing, entertaining, and I got the lesson too.

    Thank you!

    • Haile S.

      Selam Fanti,

      Welcome back from hibernation😁. Your exit from the retiree’s party and your entry to the door of this forum was magnificient. With Ali Baba’s story in the background, your story reminded me of another elementary textbook story that we used to read with our teachers (መምህር ቃልኣብ, in my case). The story is that of Wali Dad, I hope you remember. I am not telling the story that I also hope everyone remembers.

      Did you leave the party after the Fairy rejuvenated you by placing a young princes’s crown on your head and readied you for kneeling in front of the Princess?

      Fanti, you could be as rich as the Prince of Nekabad in reality, but it is your generosity that reminded me of Wali Dad. I am not insinuating that you lived by cutting grass with the knife you used to carry back in Sudan 😊.

      • Fanti Ghana

        Selamat Hailat,

        Hahaha. I just read Wali Dad story online and I am surprised at the resemblance!

    • Saleh Johar

      Fanti the new Ras:-)
      Your spirit is always floating over this forum. Retire as you wish but the spirit lives forever. Good to have you back

      HaileS mentioned Wali Dad but it’s a crime to cut the title, it’s Walidad Cuts The Grass. And you must remember Blue Bird, it’s actually an altered character of Shahreyar who kills his wives. My favorite name from the school stories of the past is Shokolokobangoshay, I used that to teach my children spelling when they were young and they still remember. Try to write it from memory and if it’s more or less than 18 letters it’s wrong. 🙂

  • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

    Thank you brother KoKobay!
    I just listened the whole funny and educational episode.
    Saleh,
    This is really wonderful!
    ‘ዛ ሓንጎልኩም ከተስፍሑ ማባል ግደፋ……ማለተይሲ ሰፊሑ ከይፍንጀር ‘ሞ ቤተሰብ ከይከሱኻ
    ኣብ YouTube ብዙሓት ፈተውቲ ስለዘለዉ ናብ ዓዋተ ክመጹ ዓድሞም…..just saying

  • Saleh Johar

    Hello all,
    You shouldn’t be surprised but I was denied access to the forum since a few days. I am not sure if one is f the moderators blocked me. (The culprit: speak up and explain why!)

    I reclaimed my account and I am back.
    Saleh Johar

    • Hashela

      Selam Saleh

      Haha….
      መርገም Nitriccን Hopeን በቂሑካ 🙂
      At least, you have the humor to report your blockage to us.
      Welcome back my Uncle!

    • Brhan

      يا أستاذ صالح
      ممكن تكون نسيت تقول “إفتح ياسمسم!
      Next time do not forget to say “Open sesame!’

      • Abi

        Brhan
        Brilliant!!!!!!
        I believe you haven’t copied it from the Arabian Newspaper.

        • Brhan

          يا أبي
          لماذا إنت سلبي اليوم
          النسخ في هذا الإطار كلمة سلبية

          • Abi

            Brhan
            You have perfected the art of leaving people in the dark without any proof 🙂
            Whatever you said, I agree with you.

          • Brhan

            Abi
            Translation:
            Abi
            Why are you in a negative mood today .
            The word “copied” is a negative word in the context ( previous)

          • Abi

            Brhan
            Both of us can not be positive at the same time. Similar sides repeal each other. ( I don’t want to confuse you with the principles of magnetism. It is king of complicated:))
            You are one of my all time favorites in this small nation of ours. I like giving hard times to the people I like talking to. It is kind of የድመት ፍቅር:)
            Besides, ከልዑል ራሥ አቢ ጋር መወያየት ላንተም ክብር ለኔም ታሪክ መሆኑን አትዘንጋ:)
            Most of the time I get bored with politics pretty quickly.
            If you are offended by my comment, I apologize sincerely.

          • Brhan

            Abi
            The medium for my BA degree was Arabic language . Copy and paste is not tolerated by awate. moderator/s. I take this issue seriously!

          • Abi

            Brhan
            Are you implying that you are one of the moderators at Awate?
            Anyway, Awate is literally based on copy and paste. Nothing is original here. Everything is recycled million times. The actors might be different from time to time. However, the setting and the script is always the same.
            What should not be tolerated at Awatenation is bringing fake news without proof!!!
            Don’t pretend to be overly serious about nothing.

          • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

            Selamat Brhan nebsi,
            This is a guy who has high respect to the so called prof. Asmessay Kellele, that he doesn’t believe any student can get an A in his class.
            ኣየ ትዕቢትን ድንቁራንን ክሕወሱ ከለዉ ሃገር ከምዘዕንዉ!

          • Brhan

            መሃንድስ ምዕባለ ነብሲ
            ሰብ
            ይሓስብ
            የቕርባ ንንባብ
            ጨመተ ነቲ ሰብ ዶ ነቲ ሓሳብ
            ታ ናይ ፈለማ
            ስልጣኔ ትጠለማ
            ታ እትስዕባ
            ዕንባባ ብዕንባባ

          • Abi

            MM
            Please present us with
            1- the number of books you authored
            2 – the list of the research papers you presented all over the world
            3- the number of post graduate students you advised for the last 40+ years
            4 – the number of lectures and seminars you conducted all over the world

            Then, only then, you might call the professor “ the so called professor “.

            You could not join his class because you flunked ESLCE.
            I’m out!

          • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

            Abi,
            Since you are out, I am sure you don’t expect my answer. Case closed!

    • Haile S.

      Selam Saleh,

      That is the reason Isu is smiling and having fun.

  • Abi

    Selam Ato Saleh
    When you read the Arabian Nights , you learn how alcohol was invented. It was invented by a servant in order to free himself from his master. He made the fermented liquor from fruits available in the forest. He provided the liquor to his master until he got drunk.
    Just called to say hello…

    • Hashela

      Abi

      Rumor has it that when the master was drunk, he used to threaten to bring back “little” Eritrea to her mighty “mother”.
      Now, there is abundant alcoholic beverage and nobody he can threaten!

    • Saleh Johar

      Good idea Abiy, but we need your help next time a party is held in Gondar. That’s what good neighbors do:-). Thanks

      • Abi

        ሰላም አቶ ሳለህ
        እድሜ ቀጥል የሆነውን የጎጃም ዳግም አረቄ ለማቅረብ ቃል እገባለሁ::
        እንኳን ደህና መጡ::

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Abu Salah,

    It is very interesting – you in trying to find a historical parallel to our predicament of the last 30 years or 11000 horrible nights, as you call it, with that of the Golden age of Shahrazad/Shahryar story of fairytales. Good job, my friend.

    Regard

    • Saleh Johar

      Yes Emma, that is untapped at all and we have forgotten how to think. I guess

  • Brhan

    Ahlan Saleh,

    Entertaining and educational Negarit episode. In the YouTube version, you have raised an important issue: the status of our Eritrean literature: I would like to add more points.

    As you know, our Eritrean literature inside Eritrea is dead. There, a literal work has to praise the gov’t or has nothing to do with the country’s reality. The absence of freedom of speech is the main killer of Eritrean literature in Eritrea.

    Externally, we have many attempts, but these attempts couldn’t result in giving the Eritrean literature its place in world literature due to technical problems.

    1) Many exiled writers face the Engish language barrier

    2) The absence of publishers who can publish the literal works and translate the literal works into the main world languages such as English.

    3) No literal associations, syndicates, and institutions that work to preserve the Eritrean literature and encourage writers to produce great literal works.

    You are right; we have many experiences to tell stories more than Alf Layla Wa Layla but hardly see that a poem or shorty story is essential to express our experiences. We think news only can do that.

    I have a suggestion, but before telling you, I want you to pardon me in advance ትሕጃ ተማሒርካ የድልየኒ ኣሎ

    Can awate.com conduct a yearly competition for the best Eritrean literal work?

    • Saleh Johar

      Ahlan Brhan,
      True, the content is chopped in the article but you did a good job in updating it here. Thank you

  • kokhob selamone2

    Dear all,

    This is game changer and turning point. Our brother Saleh, has come far to let us do what we should. Please, listen it please, I recommend all to give his clear idea.

    KS,,

    • Saleh Johar

      Selam Kokhob,
      I am glad you find it clear but game changer is a bit of a stretch. It’s a drop in a bucket. Thanks

      • kokhob selamone2

        Selam Dear Brother Saleh,

        When I say. game changer I mean it

        KS,,