Turkish story site
Bir varmis, bir yokmus... So begin the Turkish fairy tales. This may be translated as "There was, there wasn't," an indication of the story's existence in a place beyond time.
At Southbank this past summer, I learned from writer Christine Leviczky Riek that Hungarian stories begin with a similar phrase. This made sense to me, as some linguists consider Turkish and Hungarian to be related.
Reading Karim Alrawi's The Book of Sands, I was surprised by the similarity of his translated Egyptian story openings, "There was, or maybe not..." Since Arabic is from a different linguistic lineage, the similar story openings may be a regional phenomenon.