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When Ali Cogia had conveyed the jar home and turned it out, he was surprised

to see that his gold had been taken away. He returned to Noureddin,

and endeavored, by friendly reasoning, to prevail with him to do justice.



The Story of Ali Cogia

Merchant of Baghdad 


There lived at Baghdad a reputable merchant named Ali Cogia, of a moderate fortune and contented with his situation, and therefore happy.

It happened that for three nights following he dreamed that a venerable old man came to him, and with a sever look, reprimanded him for not not having made a pilgrimage to Mecca. As a good Muslim, Ali Cogia knew it was his duty to undertake such a pilgrimage. But he contented himself with determining to set about it some distant day. When that day came, he was never without an excuse to postpone his journey, and renew his resolution.

These dreams awakened his conscience. he converted his substance into cash, half of which he laid out in merchandise, to traffic with as he journeyed. the other half he deposited in a jar, which he filled with olives, and requested a friend of his to suffer it to remain in his warehouse till the Caravan should return from Mecca. he mentioned it as a jar of olives only, without saying a word of the money at the bottom of it. Noureddin, which was the name of his friend, very obligingly gave him the key of his warehouse, and desired him to set his jar where he pleased, promising it should remain untouched till his return.

When the caravan was ready, Ali Cogia set out for Mecca, where he performed very exactly all those ceremonies which are observed at that holy place. The duties of his pilgrimage being completed, he went to Cairo, and thence to Damascus, trading all the way to considerable advantage. having a great desire to see the world, he went to other celebrated cities, taking Jerusalem in his way, that he might view the temple, which is looked upon by all Muslims to be the most holy after Mecca. In short, his journey was so long that seven years elapsed before he returned to Baghdad.

All this time the jar of olives stood undisturbed in Noureddin's warehouse. But it so fell out, a few days before Ali Cogia came home, that the wife of Noureddin chanced to wish for some olives. This brought to his mind the jar his friend had left with him so long ago. He determined to open and examine them. His wife in vain represented to him how base and dishonorable it was to meddle with anything left in his hands as a trust. Noureddin was obstinate: he opened the the jar and found all the olives at the top were moldy. Hoping to find them better at the bottom, he emptied them all out, and with them turned out the bag which Ali Cogia had deposited there.

Noureddin was a man whose general conduct was specious. He was exceedingly careful to preserve his reputation. But in his heart he was a slave to avarice. And like all other very covetous men, he was as honest as his interest obliged him to be.. At the sight of so much money, he determined to seize it. And finding it impossible to replace the olives so as to appear as they were before he open the jar, threw them away, and filled it with new ones.

When Ali Cogia arrived, his first care was to visit Noureddin. This traitor affected great joy to see him again after so long an absence. And of his own accord offered him the key of his warehouse to fetch his jar.

When Ali Cogia had conveyed the jar home and turned it out, he was surprised to see that his gold had been taken away. He returned to Noureddin, and endeavored, by friendly reasoning, to prevail with him to do justice. The base merchant was callous to every consideration of that kind. He concluded that, as Ali Cogia could produce no proof of his having lodged treasure in the jar, his own general fair character would bear him out against one who had been absent so long that he was almost unknown in his native city. Nor was he mistaken. The Qadi, hearing Al Cogia's complaint, called upon Noureddin for his defense. 

Noureddin said, "'Tis true that seven years ago Ali Cogia, at his own request, left a jar in my warehouse, which he told me was filled with olives. I never saw the jar. He carried it thither himself, left it where he pleased, and found it in the same place, covered as he left it. He has no witness to prove that he put a treasure in it. Might he not as well have demanded a jar of diamonds? In short, I declare that I never had this money, or even knew there was any in the jar. This I am ready to declare on my oath."

Finding Ali Cogia could bring no testimony to confirm his bare assertion, the Qadi determined the affair by a short process and, admitting Noureddin to justify himself on oath, dismissed the complaint. The sufferer did not so easily put up with his loss. he appealed to the caliph, and a day was fixed for the hearing in the divan, Noureddin duly summoned to attend.

The evening before the cause was to come on, the Caliph and his vizier were walking in disguise about the city, when they met with a group of children, and heard one of them say, "Come, let us play at the Qadi. I will be the Qadi. Bring Ali Cogia and the merchant who cheated him of his gold before me." Reminded thus of the cause which was to come before him next day, the Caliph attended to the motions of the children.

The pretended Qadi took his seat. Presently, one of the children, representing Ali Cogia, repeated his complaint.; and another, as Noureddin made the same answer he had done, and offered to confirm his innocence by an oath. Another boy was about to administer the oath but the imaginary Qadi prevented him, saying "Let me see the jar of olives." It was supposed to be brought forward; and each each party owned it to supposed to be brought forward; and every party owned it to be the identical jar in dispute.

The young Qadi then ordered it to be opened, and pretended to eat some of the fruit. "These olives," said he, "are excellent. I cannot think they have been kept for seven years. Send for a couple of olive merchants."

Two other lads stood forward as olive merchants. The pretended Qadi demanded how long olives keep fit to eat. They answered, "That with the utmost care they would lose their taste and color by the third year." "Look then," said the young Qadi, "into that jar, and tell me how old those olives are."

The two imaginary merchants seemed to examine and taste the olives, and reported them to be new and good. "New!" replied the judge. "Noureddin is ready to swear they have stood seven years in his warehouse!" "It is impossible," said the young merchants. "we know better and are sure that these olives are of the present year's growth."

The imaginary criminal would have replied, but the young Qadi would not hear him. "You are a rogue." said he, "and ought to be hanged." The children put an end to their play, by clapping  their hands with a great deal of joy, and seizing the criminal to carry him to execution.

The caliph listened to what passed with much attention. After musing a few moments, he ordered his grand vizier to find out the boy who had represented the magistrate, and bring him to the divan next morning. He directed the Qadi and two olive merchants to attend and sent orders to Ali Cogia that he should bring the jar of olives with him.

When the divan met and all the parties attended, the child was presented to the Caliph, who asked him if it was he who determined the cause last night at play, between Ali Cogia and Noureddin. The boy modestly answered, "It was." The Caliph seeing the child was awed by his presence, embraced and commended him. "You shall now, my dear," said he, "decide between the real parties; come and sit down by me." Then turning to Ali Cogia and his adversary, he bade them plead their cause before that child, who should do them both justice. "If," continued the caliph, "he should be at a loss, I will assist him."

The attention of everyone present was turned, in an extraordinary degree, to this singular trial. Ali Cogia and Noureddin pleaded against each other much in the same manner as the children had done the evening before. When Noureddin offered to take his oath, the boy said, "It is too soon. Let us see the jar of olives."

An examination of the quality and age of the fruit now took place. Everything which had passed among the children, in their play, was repeated seriously, before the Caliph, in the divan. The treachery of Noureddin was apparent, when the child, instead of ordering him to be hanged, looked up to the Caliph, and said, "Commander of the Faithful, this is not play. It is your majesty that must condemn him to death and not me, though I did it last night among my comrades."

Fully convinced of Noureddin's villany, the Caliph ordered him into the hands of his ministers of justice to be hanged immediately and confiscated his effects to the use of Ali Cogia. Then turning to the Qadi, the monarch reprehended him severely and bade him learn from the child how to do his duty in the future. At the close of the divan, the caliph again embraced the boy, and sent him home to his parents with a purse of gold and the applause his early abilities deserved.

Source: Arabian Nights' Entertainment

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Africans in the Arabian Gulf—Well, one interesting indicator of that is names.  You have people who are identifying themselves as affixed to tribes.  They have Bedouin tribal names, and in some ways this parallels the way that, for example, a slave in the United States would have the name of the family that owned him.  Washington.  Jefferson.  These are the names of African Americans today.  They reflect the fact that their origins were those slave-holding families.  You have similar relationships and nomenclature in the Gulf, names that I heard and asked people about, who were obviously of African stock.  I'd say, "This is obviously a Nejdi Tribal name, and yet you would appear to be not have Bedouin origin, but of African origin, or some combination."  So he would say, "No, my family goes back a long way as clients of that tribe.”  “Clients” denotes a range of relationships to a patriarchy that has included slaves and indentured servants.  So I'm certain that that could have happened in the 19th century, but it also could have happened much earlier as well.

In general—and this is a broad generalization—I think it is fair to say that in the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait, a large number of African ethnics who are nationals in those countries are lower on the socioeconomic ladder.  That said, there are notable exceptions, including senior people in politics and government in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.  When you have conversations with Gulf nationals of African origin, they are not necessarily acculturated to welcoming discussions of family genealogy and African roots, or asking the sorts of questions that might help situate their particular family history in the context of broader histories of cultures and peoples in Africa.  So it is not necessarily common to find people who'll wax poetic on their family origin, and their odyssey from Africa, and in some circles it's kind of a taboo topic as well.  People don't like to dwell on the slave history of the country. AfroPop

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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update 11 May 2012




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