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North African Proverbs

North African proverbs and sayings from communities in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan … Feel free to suggest or submit more via the forum, which will then be added to the list.

  1. When you see a rat running into a fire then you know that what it is running away from is hotter than the fire.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  2. When an elder dies a whole library is buried with him.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  3. Do not use a fox to watch chickens because it has a lot of experience in ending their lives.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  4. Ask for a camel when you expect to get a goat.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: Sudan
  5. If you want to catch a black goat, do it before sunset.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  6. Not all trees in a forest make good firewood.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  7. An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: Tunisia
  8. If you cannot cook, do not tell someone the food needs salt.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  9. An animal with soft hooves cannot force its way through a thorny bush.
    Community/language of origin: Juba
    Country: South Sudan
  10. It is better to be a free dog than a caged lion.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan/Ethiopia
  11. There may be a father without a son but there may never be a son without a father.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: Sudan
  12. Do not destroy the pumpkin plant in your old homestead, because it may one time save you when you are hungry.
    Community/language of origin: Juba
    Country: South Sudan
  13. It is only a person who has been pierced by a thorn who knows how it hurts.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  14. Two hands united can throw anything a long way.
    Community/language of origin: Arabic
    Country: Sudan
  15. Bees that have honey in their mouths have stings in their tails.
    Community/language of origin: Juba
    Country: South Sudan
  16. The art of being a good guest is to know when to leave.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  17. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, a fool learns only from his own.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  18. A spoon does not know the taste of soup, nor does a learned fool have the taste of wisdom.
    Community/language of origin: Yambio
    Country: South Sudan
  19. A tree that shields a lizard is asking to be stoned.
    Community/language of origin: Dinka
    Country: South Sudan
  20. The squatting of a frog is in fact its way of standing.
    Community/language of origin: Kapweta
    Country: Sudan
  21. If you are patient enough, good things will happen.
    Community/language of origin: Arabic
    Country: Egypt
  22. Listen to the first and last word to understand the meaning.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: South Sudan
  23. The wise man does not cut the tree branch while sitting on it.
    Community/language of origin: Unknown
    Country: Sudan
  24. The hand that is not working is not a pure (good) hand.
    Community/language of origin: Arabic
    Country: Egypt
  25. A beautiful thing is never perfect.
    Community/language of origin: Arabic
    Country: Egypt

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  • If possible the proverb not only in English but original language as well
  • A short explanation of its meaning
  • Please include the community or tribe where this proverb is from
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