Fiona petted her and they watched as the camel went to join the others. They
walked to the entrance and peeked inside. Fiona said, “It’s hot in here.
There’s nothing much around, is there?”
Callum pulled out his magic lamp. “I almost forgot about my magic lamp.”
“It’s not a magic lamp. It’s just a lamp. They use them to burn oil because
a lot of people here don’t have electricity,” Elspet said.
“You can think whatever you want. I like it anyway, magic or not,” Callum
said. He walked into the castle and sat in the shade of a tall stone wall.
“I’m tired of them always teasing me.” He stroked the lamp. “You could be a
magic lamp, couldn’t you? Aladdin had one, why not me, Callum.” He took the
corner of his light blue shirt and wiped the dust off the lamp. It began to
shake in his hand and made a droning noise. He dropped it and ran to Fiona.
“Help! My lamp! It’s acting weird. It’s twitching and humming.”
Fiona looked at him and laughed. “The only thing acting weird here is you,
“I’m serious. Come and see,” Callum said, pulling her by the hand.
“Come on, Elspet. Callum’s going to show us his magic genie,” Fiona teased.
When they walked around the corner they found themselves cocooned in a whirl
of grass green smoke. It poured out of the funnel of the lamp. “I told you,”
Callum said. “It is a magic lamp.” He stuck his tongue out at Elspet.
The smoke changed shape into the form of a man. “Whoa!” Coughing from the
smoke, Elspet had to take a step back to get the entire thing in her view.
“It’s a genie.”
The man spoke. “I am not a genie. I am a djinn.” His voice boomed, bouncing
off the stone walls. “Genie’s grant wishes. Djinns don’t.”
djinn? What’s that?” Callum backed up against the wall, afraid.
“I’m a djinn. That’s all I can tell you. I’m pretty sweet, but I’m not the
djinn-gerbread man!” The djinn started laughing. None of them did.
Fiona studied the djinn. His smoky skin was pale green. He wore a bright
green cylindrical hat, flat on the top, with a golden tassel hanging from
it. His pants were baggy and dark green, like a pine tree, and his olive
green vest buttoned up the front with gold buttons. His arms were beefy and
thick and he wore a pair of golden slippers on his feet. At the curled ends
were tiny golden bells. “You’re quite a sight,” she said.
“Will you grant us three wishes?” Callum hesitantly asked him.
“Ha! Of course I won’t. I told you, I’m not a genie. I’m a djinn.”
don’t know the difference. You came from a magic lamp, so I figure you must
be a genie,” Callum said.
“My name is Hakim. I’m a djinn from the days of Sultan Omar Karan Dibouji.
We had a bit of a, uh, falling out and he banished me to this brass lamp.
What century is this anyway?”
“It’s the 21st century,” Elspet said, finding courage.
“You mean I’ve been in that lamp for 1200 years? No sense crying over spilt
goat milk. I’m free now. Thank you. Now I must go,” Hakim said. He flew off,
but turned around and came back. “By the way, I like your hats. Gotta go.”
“Wait! Don’t go. Can’t you please give us three wishes?” Elspet begged.
Hakim stopped and shook his head back and forth. “No.”
“How about two wishes?” Callum pleaded.
Hakim shook his head again. “No.”
“One wish then?” Fiona giggled.
can’t give you any wishes, however, I can give you some advice.”
“Advice? We don’t need advice,” Fiona said.
“Well, what about a magic carpet? Would that do instead?”
magic carpet? That would be great,” Callum said.
Hakim waved his green smoky hand around in the air and mumbled something in
Arabic. A magic carpet appeared at their feet.
“It looks like the ones we saw in Madaba. Are you sure it’s magic?” Callum
stood on it.
“It flies. All you have to do is say the magic word. All I ask is that when
you’re ready to leave that you put the carpet back in the qasr. Maca Salama.
I’m off. My new found freedom is calling me.” Hakim disappeared in a puff of
“Now there’s something you don’t see every day, a green djinn.” Elspet
stared at the tendrils of wispy smoke still hanging in the air.
“At least we got this cool carpet,” Callum said.
“Um, Callum. Hakim didn’t tell us what the magic word was. How will we fly
on it if we don’t know what to say?” Fiona folded her arms across her chest.
“Oh no! Hakim! Come back!” Callum shouted over and over again. Fiona and
Elspet finally tired of hearing him and went to sit down in another place in
“Callum can be so annoying. Do you know where the ruby is, Fiona? Is it in
the castle?” Elspet sighed.
“It’s here, but we can only get it at sunrise,” Fiona said.
“Why? Since when is there a time frame?”
“This one is different. We’ll only be able to see it in the light of the
morning sun, no later, no earlier,” Fiona said.
“So that means we have to sit here all day and all night long. What will we
“We can explore the castle. You can draw.”
“How can I draw? I didn’t bring anything to draw with.”
did. When I went shopping I picked you up a pad of paper and a few pencils,”
Fiona said, taking them out of her pack. She handed Elspet a bottle of water
too. “Drink this and don’t let yourself get dehydrated.”
“This is great. I can draw now. Thank you, Fiona. What should I draw first?”
She put her finger to the bottom of her chin.
“Why don’t you draw Hakim before you forget what he looks like?”
“Good idea,” Elspet said.
Fiona dozed off while Elspet drew. Callum was having fun dropping dirt clods
from the top floor of the castle and watching them break open when they hit
the ground. When he wasn’t doing that, he went outside the castle walls to
look for desert diamonds and chase lizards. Fiona dreamed about the castle
when it was a desert oasis long ago. Sultans and sheiks stopped here with
their caravans of camels while they were on the Silk Road, to trade spices,
wood and salt for silky fabric, ivory, glass, exotic animals and plants.
“Wake up, Fiona. See what I drew.” Elspet held her drawing pad in front of a
sleepy Fiona’s eyes.
Fiona yawned. “That’s nice, Elspet. When you get home you can color it in
Callum came running over to them. “I found this lizard. Isn’t it cool
“Get that thing away from me!” Elspet jumped up and ran away.
Callum laughed. “What did you bring to eat? I’m hungry.” Fiona opened the
pack and pulled out three pomegranates. “Why don’t you start with this.”
Elspet put her drawing pad and pencils back in the pack. “Let go of the
lizard, Callum and then I’ll have one too.”
“What is it?” Callum took a purplish fruit from Fiona’s hand.
“It’s a pomegranate,” Fiona said.
“How do we eat it?”
have no idea. I think we have to break it open. The man in the shop said it
had seeds inside. We can eat them,” Fiona said.
Callum picked up a stone and split the tough skin open. Reddish purple juice
squirted out all over his shirt. “It’s messy.” He saw all the pulpy, juicy
seeds. He picked one and popped it in his mouth. “It’s tangy, but good.”
Fiona and Elspet did the same. By the time they were finished all their
clothes were stained with deep red spots. Their fingers, mouths and teeth
were also stained. “We look a fine mess,” Fiona said. “I don’t want to use
the water to wash myself. We’ll need it to drink. We’ll just have to stay
Before they knew it, the sun was setting. They finished off the food in
their backpack and spread out the carpet on the ground. “I wish Hakim had
told us the magic word. We could have had fun flying around on the magic
carpet,” Callum said.
“Let’s just spread it out and get to sleep,” Fiona said. “By the way, what
advice did Hakim give us? Do you remember?”
“He just told us he had some advice for us. He forgot to tell us that too.
He was too excited about his freedom,” Elspet mocked, rolling her eyes.
They lay on the carpet. As she lay there, Fiona started giggling. “What’s so
funny?” Elspet asked between yawns.
“I’m just laughing at the colors of this carpet. It’s all different shades
of green, like Hakim. He must really like that color.” The sun fell below
the horizon. Fiona lay on her back looking up at the stars. “There are a
million, billion stars up there.”
Elspet and Callum looked up too. “I wonder if there are people on some of
those planets,” Callum said.
think so. We can’t be the only things that live in the universe,” Elspet
“We’re also not the only things that live in this castle,” Fiona said.
Elspet turned her head. Callum sat up. “What are those things? They look
like crabs,” he said.
“Those aren’t crabs. They’re spiders. I remember watching a show on
television about the Middle East. Those are sand spiders. They can run
faster than people. They’re big and ugly and they bite,” Fiona said. “This
must be our first trap.” The spiders kept coming from inside the castle
walls. There were almost as many of them as the stars above them.
“Not more spiders! Hurry, Fiona. Say the magic word so the carpet will fly,”
don’t know the word. Hakim forgot to tell us,” Fiona said. The spiders moved
a few feet closer. “Go away!”
“You can try to talk to the spiders, like you talked to the redbacks in
Tasmania,” Elspet said.
hate spiders. Why does it always have to be spiders? They move fast and have
long legs and tickle when they crawl on you.” Callum scooted away from the
edge of the carpet.
“These things are really big spiders. I don’t think they’d tickle if they
crawled all over us. I think they’d take huge bites out of us. They’re
horrible ugly creatures. At least the redbacks looked like spiders. These
look like…well…they’re just ugly and big,” Elspet said.
“Hakim! Help us! What’s the magic word?” Callum shouted. “Hakim!”
few spiders ran up the inside walls of the castle. Elspet heard their legs
clacking against the stones and was so afraid that she started to cry. “I
don’t want to be bitten. What if those ones jump on us or fall in our hair?
They’re coming closer, Fiona. Talk to them.”
Fiona thought about starting a fire and burning them, but changed her mind.
The desert night was hot enough already without flames. “All right. I’ll
talk to them.” A shooting star flew across the sky, catching their
“Look! It’s a shooting star,” Callum said, distracting her.
“It’s flying right towards us,” Elspet said, wiping her tears. “That’s just
great. First we have monster spiders and now we’re going to be smashed to
death by a shooting star.”
“It’s coming closer. It’s going to fall on us,” Fiona said. She wanted to
jump off the carpet and run, but remembered the spiders.
They watched as the star came closer and closer. It landed with a thud on
the carpet. “It’s small. I’ve never heard of a falling star falling on a
carpet before,” Elspet said.
The star was so bright that it lit up the entire castle, letting them see
how many spiders hid in the shadows. “Yikes! That’s a lot of sand spiders.”
Callum turned towards the star and nudged it with his foot. He knelt down
and put his hand next to it to test it for heat and feeling none, picked it
up. “This is really weird. It doesn’t burn or feel hot.” He swirled it
around, swooshing it through the air.
Fiona saw something. “Hold still. I saw something.” Callum stopped. “Look!”
In the center of the football-sized star was Hakim’s face. “It’s Hakim!”
The djinn grinned. “You’re right. It’s me. I just remembered a joke. This
one’s funny. What do you give a seasick genie?”
“Hakim, we don’t have time to listen to your jokes,” Fiona said. Hakim
frowned. “Oh, all right. I’ll ask. What do you give a seasick genie, Hakim?”
“This is funny. You’re gonna die laughing. The answer is, Djinn and tonic.
Ha! Ha! Ha!” Hakim’s cheeks turned red with laughter. He stopped suddenly
and looked at them. “You’re not laughing.”
“Hakim, we’re in trouble. We need your help,” Fiona said.
“I’ll say you do. Look at your faces and clothes. What’s with the red mess?”
Hakim pointed at Callum’s chin.
“We ate pomegranates,” Callum said. “We’re not that messy, are we?”
“Yes you are. Uh, sorry. Oh, that reminds me, I forgot to tell you two
things. The magic word is Mizusabir,” Hakim said.
“What’s the second thing?” Elspet asked.
“Don’t sleep on the ground. There are sand spiders and they’re nasty
things.” Hakim winked and the star flew out of Callum’s hand into the sky.
They could see the spider’s yellow eyes, glowing in the moonlight as their
long, spindly legs carried them closer. “A bit late for the advice, Hakim.
What’s that magic word again?” Fiona shouted after him, already forgetting.
“Mizusabir,” Elspet yelled. The carpet lifted a few inches off the ground.
“It’s working!” When the spiders saw they were about to escape, they dashed
towards the carpet. “Mizusabir! Mizusabir!” Elspet said again. The carpet
lifted higher. “Mizusabir! Mizusabir! Mizusabir!” They flew into the air and
zoomed above the castle. “Hold on!” They grabbed the edges and held tight.
Callum noticed three spiders clinging to the tassels on each end of the
carpet. “Get them off!” Callum hoped the wind would knock them off, but
their long legs wrapped around the strings of wool. He balanced himself in
the center of the carpet and took off one of his shoes. Leaning over, he hit
one of the spider’s legs. It fell to the ground. “Gotcha!” A spider’s legs
came over the side onto the top of the carpet. Callum carefully moved over,
being careful not to bump into Fiona and Elspet. He hit the spider’s legs
and it let go with a screech. He lay on his tummy and looked at the other.
“I’ll get you too!” The spider jumped and landed on Fiona’s leg.
She screamed and fell backwards off the edge of the carpet. Her hands
grabbed hold of the carpet, but the rest of her body dangled in the air.
“Help! Don’t let me fall!” Fiona shouted to her friends. The spider had
fallen off when she went over the edge and now it crawled quickly towards
Elspet, who was trying to pull Fiona up onto the carpet.
“Oh no you don’t,” Callum said. He hit the spider with his shoe. It wrapped
its legs around his shoe and didn’t let go. Callum pounded it, but because
the carpet was so soft, it didn’t hurt it.
“Don’t let me fall, Elspet. Pull me up.” Fiona grabbed onto Elspet’s wrist
and tried to lift herself up.
“You’re pulling me over,” Elspet cried out, trying not to tumble over the
Fiona closed her eyes. Birds, if there are any of you out there, please come
and help me. I’m going to fall.
Elspet saw a dark shape coming towards her. She couldn’t tell what it was.
It was too dark. “Fiona, there’s a big bird or something coming. I think
it’s a vulture. I hope it’s not coming to eat us.” Tears ran down her
cheeks. “We’re going to die, aren’t we?”
“It’s coming to help me,” Fiona said.
The bird’s huge wings flapped up and down as it hovered above them. You need
my help? What can I do?
Fly under the carpet and catch me. I’m going to fall. Please don’t drop me.
Fiona let go of Elspet’s wrist. Elspet fell backwards onto the carpet.
“Fiona!” She screamed in terror as her friend dropped to the ground. The
vulture swooped down and grabbed Fiona with its claws, holding onto her
blouse. “The bird caught her! It’s not going to eat us! It’s here to save
I’ll put you down here on the wall. The vulture glided down to the top of
You saved my life. Thank you. Do you have a name?
name is Tarik. I live in the mountains over there. I don’t suppose you’ve
seen any carrion lying about?
No, but the whole castle floor is covered with sand spiders.
Sand spiders? My favorite. I prefer them dead, but it’s time for a late
night snack and beggars can’t be choosers. Tarik left Fiona and flew down
to the sand spiders. His huge beak opened, scooping them up. He crunched
them by the beak full. Those that didn’t get eaten, ran off into the dark
recesses of the castle.
Elspet saw Callum trying to smash a spider with his shoe. She shouted to
Fiona. “Start a fire and burn the spider off Callum’s shoe.” Fiona heard and
waved. “Throw your shoe over the edge. Fiona will kill the spider.”
Callum slipped it off his foot kicked his shoe off the carpet. “Here goes
Fiona set the shoe on fire, burning it and the spider to a crisp. Its
charcoaled body landed on the ground near Tarik. The vulture gobbled it
“Let’s land this thing,” Elspet said. She commanded the carpet to land near
Fiona. Fiona jumped on it and it flew back into the air. The carpet and
three children floated in the air a few feet up. “That was close.”
The vulture ate his fill and flew back up to the others. Time to go back to
my perch and finish my sleep. Thanks for the snack. I forgot how good live
food tastes. Take care of yourself and your friends, Fiona. It turned and
don’t know about you, but I’d like to go for another ride on this thing,”
Callum said. The carpet heard and obeyed.
“Whee!” Fiona shouted with joy. They whizzed around the sky, flying free,
their hair blowing in the wind. “This is fun!”
Elspet wasn’t sure the carpet would support her. When she changed to a
kneeling position, the carpet gave with the change, but it didn’t fall.
Feeling safer, she laughed too. “This is great! Whee!”
For the next half an hour, the carpet flew them all over the desert. They
looked down to see campfires glowing in front of the Bedouin’s tents. When
the magic carpet headed back to the castle, Fiona said, “Magic carpet, keep
us off the ground at least ten feet. We’ll sleep up here.” They were so
excited they lay there for a long time talking about how much fun they’d
had. “I’m glad you picked up that magic lamp, Callum. I’m sorry for making
fun of you. It won’t happen again. This is so cool!”
“Yeah! Thanks, Callum,” Elspet said. She yawned and lay down, falling asleep
under the heavenly stars.
Callum yawned and looked over the edge to make sure no more spiders were
hiding. Once he saw everything was clear, he fell asleep, lying across
Fiona, who snored in shallow, peaceful breaths.