Feenan's Gift to the Kornub

Feenan's Gift to the Kornub

On the history of Wadi Al-Feenan in Wadi Araba, Abou Nasser of the Ammarin tribe relates a fascinating story which starts at the time when the Crusaders were still present in this region (a period of roughly seven hundred years). At the time Wadi Al-Feenan was fertile, and it was inhabited by a Crusader community. To the west, near Wadi Araba, lived a Bedouin tribe called Al Kurnob. In Arabic the word meaningless, which makes it an unlikely name for a tribe, and research could not find any other reference to these people.

Bad relations existed between these two people. One day, the Crusaders sent to the Kurnob a gift in the form of a camel loads of water melons which according to the legend, grew abundantly in Wadi Al-Feenan at the time. Delighted with this succulent gift, the Kurnob forgot caution and bit into the delicacy, only to discover that the Crusaders had carved the fruits out and filled the empty skins with urine. Insulted and enraged, the Kurnob swore revenge. They built wooden boxes, large enough to accommodate a fully armed man. The boxes were disguised to look like gifts, and they were loaded on camels, one on either side. Thus concealed, the armed Kurnob approached the unsuspecting Crusaders. As the herd of camels came into Wadi AL-Feenan, it was spotted by three shepherd girls named Fatima, Hasna, and Ra'ala, who ran to warn the leader of the Crusaders.

Fatima, the eldest warned the leader that the boxes may contain wheat and goods, or they may contain men with evil intentions. But the leader was sceptical, and he refused to believe that this young girl could see far enough to tell whether there were boxes on the camels or not. Fatima insisted, adding that her sight was sharp enough not only to see the boxes, but also that one of the camel guides was trying to fix the straps of his sandals using both hands and his teeth for the task. Still the Crusader would not believe her, s she and her sisters fled and hid, each girl on top of a mountain, which later came to bear her name.

These girls were the only survivors among the Crusaders, for the Kurnob managed to take them by surprise and slaughtered them all. Abou Nasser maintains that this story gave rise to a proverb (his was the only reference found to the proverb): "Feenan's present to the Kurnob", which is equivalent in meaning to the European proverb: "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."

Whether the Kurnob really existed or not is an open question. No other reference to them has been found in any reference. Nevertheless, the story of Zarqa' Al-Yamamah, which is a somewhat more refined version of the same story is recorded in Arab literature.

The story concerns a girl form Yamamah (in today's Saudi Arabia) who had such clear blue eyes that she was called Zarqa', meaning blue. In addition to their beauty, her eyes had the capacity of seeing clearly much farther than anyone else. Therefore, every evening before dusk, she would tour the walls of the city, and alert her people of any approaching danger, which gave them advanced warning in good time to take precautions.

Aware of this early warning system, enemies of the people of Yamamah camouflaged themselves with branches from trees and started their march against the city. Zarqa' repeated warnings that there were clumps of trees in big numbers moving in the direction of the city were totally ignored by her people who decided that she must have taken leave of her senses.

Therefore, the enemies (who are unidentified beyond this quality) had ample opportunity to approach the city and take it by surprise and put its people to the sword. Zarqa' was taken prisoner, and her life was spared, but her eyes were gouged out to that she could not use them against the new rulers of the city.

*Written by Rami Sajdi, Copyright © Rami Sajdi 1997 All Rights Reserved