The Mouse and the Beetle – a Sudanese Proverb with a Folktale

الخنفُسانة شافت ولدها في الحيط قالت دا لولي ملضوم في خيط

al khunfusaana shaafat walada fi l-HeeT gaalat da luuli malDuum fi kheeT.

The dung beetle saw its son on the wall and said these are pearls put together on a string.

Though the dung beetle is ugly, to his mother he is as lovely and beautiful as pearls beads strung together on a thread. This proverb implies that parental love can be blind. There is a short folktale called The Mouse and the Beetle relating to this proverb.

It once happened that a mouse married a beetle. One day when the beetle went down to the river to wash her shamla (a rag of wool or goat hair used by Sudanese women to cover their bodies when having a smoke bath), a strong habuub suddenly blew and swept away the shamla, together with the beetle who was clinging on to it tightly. The gust of wind threw the beetle on an island in the river, leaving her feeling shocked and bewildered. By coincidence, a boy from the house where the mouse and the beetle had their hole was passing near the shore. When the beetle saw him, she called out in her loudest voice: Continue reading


musmaar JuHa. Juha’s nail. – مسمار جُحا

مسمار جُحا
musmaar JuHa.
Juha’s nail.
This expression is used to describe an unwelcome person who it is hard to get rid of because they always come up with excuses and justifications for lingering. Under Sudanese culture it is considered shameful to turn away a guest, particularly at meal times.

This saying has an amusing story behind it.
One day Juha was approached by a man who wanted to buy his beautiful house. Juha agreed to the man’s offer but on one condition. He insisted on retaining the ownership of a single nail that had been struck into one of the walls. Being delighted with the price, the buyer agreed to this odd insistence and the sale was soon completed.

After a few days Juha arrived at the door when the family was having their dinner with the excuse that he wanted to see his nail. The new owner allowed him in and as the Arabs are famous for their generosity, Juha was invited to share their meal after seeing his nail. This was the first of innumerable visits that Juha made in the following days. Juha would arrive at all hours, day or night, on the pretext of wishing to see his nail. The new owner finally lost his temper as Juha was depriving his family of any rest and privacy. In a blind rage, he stormed out of the house, shouting to Juha, “Take your house with its nail. I don’t want it!”

مسمار جُحا

Sudanese Arabic Proverbs

Learning proverbs in a foreign language is a great way of expressing your sense of humour about certain situations without having to try and make jokes that might not really be appropriate.

While in England during the summer I heard an old proverb being used to describe the admiration that a mother had for her children: “all her geese are swans” Which means that in a mother’s eyes her children are the most beautiful and special children in the world. Of course all children should be lovely in their own mother’s eyes but there are occasions when some mothers lose their sense of reality!

This reminded me of a couple of very similar proverbs that we have in Sudanese Arabic. Continue reading

Illustrated Arabic

Edit, check and proof read your book… again and again and again…

This seems to be the standard advice for anyone wanting to publish a book! During the last week I’ve been checking through my book on Arabic verbs; adding pictures here and correcting spelling. Then I’ll turn it over to my editor to check through one final time.

At least the end is in sight, or is it?

I’m hoping that I can publish it as an e-book. The advantages are that it would be affordable for readers and so reach a wider readership. The main problem will be formatting a book bursting with so many colourful illustrations so that it doesn’t get distorted in the conversion process. Wish me luck as I’m on a very steep learning curve here!

Oh I almost forgot… the title at the present time is: Illustrated Sudanese Colloquial Arabic Verbs