Quick Thought to Amuse and Edify

In my reading lately I’ve come across several Middle Eastern jokes and thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

From Egypt:

“A fox in the Western Desert escaped to Libya, and the Libyans asked, ‘Why do you come here?’  The fox said, ‘Because in Egypt they arrest camels.’  The Libyans said, ‘But you are not a camel.’  The fox then said, ‘Of course not, but try telling that to the police!’”

(This is apparently a very old joke, but this version was reportedly told by former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat as a criticism of the police state of his predecessor Gamal Abdel Nasser.  By most accounts, it could still be told today.)

From Saudi Arabia:

“The king decides to check the will of his people.  So he sets up a checkpoint on a busy road.  No one complains.  So he asks his security officers to further test people’s patience by also doing an identity check at the checkpoint.  Still no one complains.  Determined to find the public’s limit of tolerance, the king asks the officer not only to stop the people and check their identities but also to ticket them.  The line of cars grows ever longer on the busy Riyadh road, but still no public complaint emerges from a Saudi.  So the king asks the officer to go one step further and slap those he stops, identifies, and tickets.  Finally one Saudi man goes ballistic.  The ruler asks that his angry countryman be brought before him to explain his outburst.  ‘I have waited for hours in this queue,’ the man tells the king.  ‘If you are going to do this to us, at least get two officers to slap us so the line moves faster.’”

(The source of this joke is Karen Elliot House’s book On Saudi Arabia, p. 31.)

About the region:

 “You know the story of the scorpion who wanted to cross the Suez Canal. He asked a camel if he could ride on his back.  The camel said, ‘If I do and you sting me, I will be dead.’  The scorpion said, ‘I will drown also, so you have every guarantee.’  So the camel took the scorpion on his back and they started across.  In the middle of the Canal the scorpion stung the camel, and as they drowned the camel asked, ‘What did you do this for?’  The scorpion said, ‘You forgot this is the Middle East.’”

(This is a joke told by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a meeting with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev in May 1973.  The US and USSR were trying, ultimately unsuccessfully, to prevent another war between Israel and its neighbors.  It is recounted in the official archives of the US Department of State.)

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