The Story of the Magic Paper

A story from Major Sir. Hubert Young's book The Independent Arab (published 1933). In 1918, during the days of the Arab Revolt, Major Young sets out on a reconnaissance from the confines of Aqaba towards the Hijaz Railway. On their way lay the grazing grounds of the bedouin tribe Beni Atiya. For them to travel comfortable and safe the head of the tribe, Matlaq al-Jumaan, travelled with them. He was apparently "such a tiny little man", but he told great stories:

Matlaq had one mysterious story of a place called Gareya, which apperently lay quite close to the place for which the party were making. One of his tribe, he said, had found himself one day in Al Qahireh (Cairo). An English Qonsulos came up to him in the suq and said, "Oh! brother, art thou of the brave Beni Atiya?"

He said, "I am."

"Knowest thou Al Gareya, the ruined city in the mountains, eight hours' journey from the iron way?"

"Yea, by God, I know it."

"Take then this paper. Burn it on a flat stone which thou wilt find outside the great gate in the rock that no man has ever seen to open. Beat thrice upon the gate and it will open before thee. Within sits a huge negro of stone, his hands upon his knees. Fear him not, but walk boldly past him and thou shalt find treasure heaped within beyond all counting. Take from it what thou wilt for thyself, and return to me here upon a day to tell me what has befallen."

Half doubting, the herd returned to his home, but when next he passed Gareya he bethought him of the English Qonsulos, and fished out the magic paper from his saddle-back. He burnt it upon the flat stone and rapped thrice on the great stone door, which swung open to his knock, and he saw within the giant statue glaring at him from the gloom. Moved by unreasoning terror he fled to his camel, and rode away as if the devil were after him. The door clanged to behind him, and was never opened since.

I am not quite sure what the morale of the story is supposed to be, and neither Young nor Matlaq offer an explanation, but I found it interesting. You'll find the story on page 158-159 in Young's book.

Jehan Sadat and Queen Noor on Stewart and Colbert

The Thief and the Orphan