THE BEST JOKE OF 2012? BY CELEBRATED AUTHOR AND COLUMNIST, KHALID KISHTAINY

It is generally believed that around 50% of all jokes are about sex, which makes my task as an Arab humourist writing for a Saudi newspaper (Asharq Al Aswat) quite difficult. But a recent winner, which is not obscene, ran like this:

Two lovely women met in hell and formed a friendship. One asks the other:

“Tell me, darling, how did you actually die?” Her friend responds: “I froze to death.

But tell me, how did you die?”

“Oh, it was like this. I suspected that my husband was having an affair. So, I left my office and went home early to surprise them. I searched the whole house without any success. I searched everywhere – every cupboard, every wardrobe – without result. Finding no evidence of another woman, I decided I might as well cook dinner. I went to get something from the freezer but, on my way to it, I stumbled, fell on the floor, broke my neck and died.”

“What a shame!” responded her new friend. “If only you hadn’t fallen, we would both still be alive.”

Of course, I had to edit this very English joke about two English women for my Middle East readers. Good Muslim that I am, I could not allow these two non- Muslim women to enter paradise as one of them was so obviously a sinner. So I had to shift the scene from paradise to hell, theonly place allowed for all non-Muslims. Sometimes however, the process does not work, when an adapted joke becomes too intricate and long for my liking; I prefer the simple and brief English joke.

The telephone rang and the man told his wife: “Darling, if it’s anyone for me, tell them I am out.”

His wife picks up the receiver and answered the caller: “Yes. He is at home today.”

Her husband was furious: “Didn’t I tell you to say that I am out?”

“Yes,” she replies, “but the call was for me.”

However, many Arab jokes about sex and the man/woman relationship often dwell on polygamy, like this very clean one I heard for the first time last year, which makes me propose it as the best Arab joke I heard in 2012.

An old Sheikh went to the local diwan after a long absence, to be asked: “Oh, Sheikh Musa, what has happened to your beard? You used to have such an impressive one!”

The man was forced to explain to his friends that he was married to two women, a young one called Hana and an elderly one called Mana. As a good Muslim like me, he had to divide his time equally between the two in accordance with the dictate of the Shari’a. During the night’s spent with Hana, she would embark on plucking out the grey hairs from his beard. On the nights spent with Mana, the old woman would pluck out his black beard hairs to make him look like her, old and grey. After a few weeks of this polygamous marriage, there was nothing left of his entire beard. His companions then murmured: “Alas! Between Hana and Mana, Sheikh Musa lost his beard.”

The words of the Sheikh’s friends have become a standard Arabic proverb, which I quoted just a few days ago in reference to the Arab Spring. Between socialism and Islamism, the new regimes have entirely lost their beards.

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