Did you see the camel? No you did not!


This is a proverb that is commonly used among the family and friends of my informant. My informant is a coworker from my job. She immigrated to the United States from Tehran, the capital of Iran, when she was 16 years old and has a lot of family here that she enjoys continuing her traditions with.

  • “šotor didi? nadidi,” or “شتر دیدی؟ ندیدی”
    • Transliterated proverb:
      • “Did you see the camel? No you did not!”
    • Full translation: This maxim is essentially indicating that if you see something that is obvious that you were not meant or supposed to see, then you should act as if you didn’t see it. Put in other words, its true meaning is along the lines of, “you see nothing, you hear nothing.”
    • Explanation by my coworker: “So lets say you’re trying to hide someone from knowing something that they see or hear. We use a camel in this maxim because it’s a large animal and easy to spot, obvious basically, just like something that you may have just seen or heard. So basically, you obviously saw or heard something that is as obvious as a camel, but you’re making the concious decision to hide that information.”

Thoughts: I thought it was really interesting that a camel was used as an obvious sight. It shines light on the regional uniqueness of the maxim and perhaps illustrates that the saying goes far back in history. In modernity, there a lot more large, obvious things that could be used to replace the role of the camel in the maxim, yet it persists because of its place in the history of the region.