Throughout their nomadic life, Harith the Bedouin and his wife Nafisa used to plant their worn tent where they could find some date palms, some withered twigs for their camel, or a pool of brackish water.
They had lived this life for years and every day Harith completed the same gestures: he would trap the desert rats for their hides, and with palm fibers he would interweave ropes that he could sell to passing caravans.
One day, however, a new stream gushed from the desert sands. Harith brought some water to his lips and it seemed like the water of paradise. That water, which we would have found terribly salty, was indeed much less murky than the water he was used to drinking. “I absolutely have to have this water tasted by someone who can appreciate it,” said Harith to himself.
So he set off on the road to the city of Baghdad and the palace of Harun El-Rashid, stopping only to nibble on a few dates. He brought with him two jugs full of water: one for himself and one for the Caliph.
A few days later he reached Baghdad and went directly to the palace. The guards listened to his story and – as was the custom – they had no choice but to admit him to the public hearing held by the Caliph.
“Commander of the believers,” said Harith, “I am but a poor Bedouin and I know all the waters of the desert, although I know very little of other things. I have just discovered this Water of Paradise, and I immediately thought of bringing it to you because, in truth, it is a gift worthy of you. ”
Harun the Honest tasted the water and, because he understood his subjects, ordered the guards to accommodate the Bedouin and to hold him until he made his decision known. Then he called the captain of the guards and said, “What for us means nothing, for him means everything. At nightfall lead him out of the building. Do not let him see the mighty Tigris; escort him up to his tent without ever allowing him to drink fresh water. Then give him a thousand gold coins with my thanks for his services. Tell him that I have appointed him Guardian of the Water of Paradise and that in my name he shall offer it to all travellers.”