One sunny spring afternoon Nasrudin was sitting peacefully by the imposing North gate of Samarkand watching the colourful string of caravans following each other and followed in turn by the curious glances of the populace.
A stranger, an obviously rich merchant from Persia about to leave town, felt attracted by Hodja’s honest-looking turban and stopped his convoy to inquire about the dangers of travel.
“Salutations to you venerable Mullah,” he said. “I am going to Herat. Is the road secure? Will I get there safely?”
“You will not reach your destination,” answered Hodja in a confidential low voice.
“So there are robbers on the road?” worried the merchant lowering his own voice.
“No, there aren’t. They are too afraid of Emir Timur.”
“Is the road difficult? I have good camels and my horses are strong!” continued the traveller.
“The road is good, but you will never get there.”
By now the merchant was deeply disturbed:
“Is there a lack or water and food on the path? I took many provisions in my luggage.”
“That will not suffice.”
“Other hardships to expect? I have money to replace whatever is needed.”
“No use. You better change your plan.”
The traveller grew irritated: “But I must go to Herat and I am a determined man. And who are you to be so certain that I will not arrive?”
“Look, my good man,” replied Nasrudin, “let me make it plain for you: the better the camels and horses, the more provisions, money and resolve, the less you will get to Herat. Herat is South and you are heading North.”