N.B This post was originally published in 2015.

For most of us, childhood was both a wonderful and scary time. We still long for the days of coloring books, tree-climbing, and scraped knees, but let's not forget the truly terrifying moments where we were scared of swallowing watermelon seeds for fear of a tree growing inside of our little tummies. Or when we thought yawning without covering our mouths could invite evil spirits into our little tummies.

Some warnings were universal, but some were specifically tailored with an Arab twist. Things were darker than you might remember…

1. If you praise someone too much or stare at them for too long, something terrible will happen to them.

This one basically warns children not to be envious of what others might have, which is a noble lesson. Still, it usually translated to a simplistic warning that those who are looking your way for a little too long are sending bad karma your way. As a child, I thought we Arabs had the ability to inflict harm through eyesight.

2. If you eat ice cream in any other season than summer you will develop pneumonia.

I have met a lot of Lebanese parents who will not let their kids sit in a room with AC for too long for fear of them catching a cold, or worse. They also tell their kids that eating ice cream during any other months besides June, July, or August will likely cause pneumonia or death. But eating raw meat year-round is just fine.

3. If you cross your eyes and someone surprises you, your eyes will stay crossed forever.

This one seems to be a pretty universal one. I have friends who shudder at the thought and thank their stars that they were never frightened mid eye-crossing.

4. When you sneeze, it means someone is thinking about you.

It does not mean you are in a dusty room or you have a cold. It means that someone, somewhere is daydreaming about your pretty little self. You know those times you sneeze three times? Well hey, you were probably looking pretty good that day.

5. If you eat "bezer" without peeling the shell a tree will grow in your stomach.

I have heard this one many times. One friend told me she always imagined it to be an orange tree. Naturally.

6. If you swallow chewing gum, a tree will grow in your stomach.

I sense a theme here…

7. If you bite your nails, a tree will grow in your stomach.

This is actually a pretty scary lie. How many poor Arab children were/are afraid of stomach trees? One friend's parents told him it would be a tree of nails. What does a tree of nails even look like? It sounds both horrifying and unsanitary.

8. Certain bathroom activities can make evil spirits/the devil come out.

I have heard a couple variations of this. Some parents forbid their kids from yelling while inside the bathroom, while others warned against taking showers past midnight. Either way, I am glad my parents never told me this one because I’m not sure I would be too comfortable in the bathroom anymore.

9. If you yawn without covering your mouth, your mouth will either get stuck that way, or the devil will enter your body.

Some of these lies are pretty dark for children. I don't think the Lebanese are necessarily resilient because of the war. I think it is because they had the shit scared out of them as children and still survived.

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In Tunisia they tell you that if you leave your shoes upside down on the ground, the devil will enter them, and consequently, you. But also that if you stay awake at night, the devil will enter your eyes. And that he'll enter you if you flush the toilet when people are sleeping. Point is, the devil's trying to rape you.

Omar Somai on Nov 20, 2015 via web