Hail! Samarkand, end of all roads
Proud abode of the great and good
Light of the desert, sight for sore eyes
Balm to the weary of heart and foot.
The sun sets on Her pearly domes
And shatters into a million lights
Her bazaars fill with men and wares
Her gardens with all earthly delights.
As they walk past Her blessed gates
Both men and beasts sigh in relief
For the day's journey has come to an end
And tomorrow is but a distant dream.
Among this throng of travellers
Is a Viking of the Russian tribe
And a Moroccan and a Chinaman
With a hundred more of every stripe.
They marvel at the sights and sounds
And enjoy the moonlit scented breeze
They plod along the winding lanes
In search of a meal and a place of ease.
Between the palm-lined cobbled streets
Runs a lonely dark gravel-lined lane
It harbours nought but a lonely inn
At whose door stood our heroes fain.
Well met good Sirs, the innkeeper said
Please step over my humble threshold
But the price of my hospitality
Mark thee! Is not to be paid in gold.
A tale I seek from each of you
In exchange for victuals and rest
As long as you can entertain me
Your honours can remain my guest.
Though puzzled by this clause unique
They entered and sat at his table
And as soon as their meal was done
The Moroccan began his fable.