This is another mathematical hoax, cleverly disguised as a fake story about Bedouins.

It seems that this Sheikh had made his will known before his death. "You, my eldest son, have always been faithful to Allah," he said. "When I die, you shall have half of my camels.

"And you, my second son, have always been faithful to me. When I die, you shall have a two thirds of what remain of my camels, after your elder brother gets his share.

"But YOU!" he cried, and his brow furrowed, "YOU, my spoilt youngest son, you are good for nothing! I'd leave you no camels at all, but that you are my son. You shall have but two thirds of what remain of my camels, after both your elder brothers get their share.

With that, he expired. And the trouble began. For, you see, our Sheikh had 17 camels. Which would mean that the eldest brother would need to get 8.5 camels, and the two younger siblings even odder fractions of a camel.

This being a (fake) fairy tale, a wise man was brought it (nowadays he'd be known as a management consultant). This dervish was known for being an exact, methodical dervish. After 7 days' hard ride through the desert, he arrived on his old, lame camel. And proceeded to solve the problem.

"I lend you my camel," he said, facing the Sheikh's tomb. "Eldest son! Half your father's camels are yours; take these 9 camels, and Allah be with you always!

"Middle son! 9 camels remain, two thirds of which are yours. Take these 6 camels, and be a good father to your children!

"Youngest son! Only 3 camels remain, but it is your father's will that you shall have 2 of them. Take these and go."

With that, the dervish mounted the finest camel in the herd, which was the only one left. "My load is returned!" he cried, riding off into the desert.

The dervish's camel was a catalyst, you see: adding it to the herd let him solve the problem, but it was unchanged by the reaction.