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  Some Yemeni proverbs


Sana’a is a ‘must’, however long the journey takes
La budd min Sana’a wa lau taal al-safr

From a pound of talk, an ounce of understanding
Min ratl hakya tafham wiqya

A foreigner should be well-behaved
Ya gharib kun adib

Look to your near neighbour rather than to your distant brother
Jaarak al-qarib wa la akhuk al-ba‘id

Work like an ant and you’ll eat sugar
Kun namla wa takul sukr

Who dies today is safe from tomorrow's sin
Man maat al-yaum salim min dhanb bukra

My fist is in his mouth, his fist is in my eye (i.e. ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’)
Yaddi fi fumuh wa yadduh fi ‘aini

A friend in time of need is a friend indeed
La sadiq illa fi waqt al-dhiq

A monkey in its mother’s eye is like a gazelle (i.e. love is blind)
Qird fi ‘ain ummuh ghazaal

If speech is of silver, silence is golden
Lau kan al-kalaam min fidha fa al-samt min dhahab

A bird in hand is worth ten in a tree
'Asfoor fil yadd wa la ‘ashra fi al-shajarah

Out of sight, out of mind
Ma ghaab ‘an al-nadhr ghaab ‘an al-khaatir

If you have honey, don’t lick the pot clean
Idha sahibak ‘asl la talhusuh kulluh

A white piastre for a black day
Al-qirsh al-abyad li al-yaum al-aswad

You play with a snake and call it a worm
Tal’ab bi hanash wa taquluh dudah

November 1998