The Sheiks Challenge

Your hot air balloon has crashed in a violent sandstorm and Sheik Abdul Fawad has rescued you from the scorching desert.  He treats you to a splendid period of recuperation, during which time you fall hopelessly in love with, and ask for the hand of his youngest and most beautiful daughter, Fatima.  Desiring the wisest and most loving husband for his last daughter, but also wanting her to be very happy, the sheik presents you with the following ancient challenge... 

Twelve servants enter the tent, where the sheik is entertaining you, each holding with both hands a large bar of gold.  A thirteenth holds a balance scale and a pencil & paper.  All the items are placed on the carpet before you.



As the scales settle, you see that they are very precise and well balanced.  You also notice that each of the bars bears a number from 1 to 12, but otherwise, they appear to be exactly the same. 

The Sheik explains that the value of true love exceeds that of all the gold in the world.  “As Fatima is unlike any woman in the world, one of the twelve bars is unlike the other eleven.” 

 “You may use the balance and the pencil and paper to find the unique bar.” the sheik says. “Succeed, and you may marry my daughter and take all this gold as her dowry.  Including this” he continues as two more servants walk in the tent struggling to hold a chest full of gold and jewels.  “If you try and fail, however, then your departure will be only with the memory of Fatima.”   The Sheik remembered that in ancient times the suitor would have risked losing a finger if he failed the test.  But this was the 1930’s, a much more civilized time.

Then the thirteenth servant explains the rules… “Each of the bars, except one, is exactly the same weight, and you are not permitted to touch them.  You may only use the balance three times.  Each use is defined as my placing any of the bars on either side as you direct. Then, I release the balance and we wait until it has settled, but slight differences will not tip the scales.   Take as much time as you need, and using the pencil and paper if you like, determine how to best utilize the balance two more times to always find the different bar.”


The sheik truly believes Fatima is far more valuable than all of the treasure in the world, and wants to know if you would risk much to have her as your bride…  “If however, you do not wish to take the risk, my friend,” challenges the sheik.  “Then you may go your way, and take with you today any one of Fatima’s hand maidens who would go with you, and you may still take the chest of treasure.”


If you accept the challenge, Fawad will know that you truly love Fatima and would risk great wealth to have her.  Solve the puzzle, he will know that you are worthy and wise enough as well.


Choose carefully...but only three times.  Or walk away rich, without Fatima!


If you wish to take the challenge, I have written a number between 1 and 12 and if it is heavier or lighter than the other 11 on a sticky note on my computer desktop for you to try your solution.

Just tell me via Facebook or email to what to place on the virtual balance scale I have on my computer… I will tell you what happened, and then you can tell me what bars you want weighed next.

Example put one on one side and one on the other and the scales will usually balance, but with ten bars left and only two tries a solution is impossible.


1.     There are 12 similar looking bars that appear to be exactly the same.

2.     One is a different weight than the others, but you may not touch them .

3.     A bar may be hollow and lighter or just gold plated lead and heavier.

4.     Bars may be placed on the balance in any number or order you choose.

5.     The balance may be used three times to find the different object.

6.      Slight differences in the gold bars won’t show up.  

    First weighing _________^_________

Second weighing _________^_________

  Third weighing _________^_________


Best of luck and remember Fatima is very beautiful. 

For women who want to take the challenge, but wouldn’t be comfortable with Fatima, she does have a handsome brother named Abdul who would love to see the world!



Eclipse Home    Donn Hayden