BAHLA: Deep in Oman’s parched inside, the traditional oasis city of Bahla abounds with myths of camel-eating, fire-mouthed hyenas and males turning into donkeys — a popularity for magic and thriller that persists to today.
Some superstitious Omanis nonetheless shun the remoted desert settlement due to its tales of “jinn”, the spirits which were a part of Arab folklore since earlier than the daybreak of Islam.
Bahla, a quiet city of palm groves and eerie, deserted mud-brick houses, lies about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southwest of the capital Muscat in Al-Dakiliya governorate, with an imposing double-archway at its entrance.
Right here, in one among Oman’s oldest inhabited settlements, perception is agency in jinn, that are described as supernatural beings distinct from people and angels that reside alongside mankind.
“We believe that jinn are among the creations of God… so it is not strange,” mentioned tour information Hamad Al Rabaani at Bahla’s medieval fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Website.
Magical tales permeate Bahla, together with the favored delusion that supernatural forces constructed the 13-kilometre wall across the city in a single evening, to guard it from invaders.
“The legend is of two sisters, both jinn, one of whom built the wall for protection… and the other who created an ancient irrigation system for agriculture,” mentioned Rabaani, 55.
– ‘Your thoughts could not take it’ –
The idea of jinn predates Islam however descriptions of the spirits characteristic in Islamic texts, which declare them topics of God.
Few locations, nevertheless, are as strongly linked with jinn as Bahla, the place “you hear stories of men who suddenly transform into donkeys and other animals”, mentioned Rabaani.
One outdated lady typically used to listen to somebody milking her cow after midnight, he mentioned. However every time she went to examine, she discovered nobody there.
“You hear but you never see, because your mind couldn’t take it.”
In Bahla’s outdated souk, or market, as silence descends after mid-day prayers, some residents are uneasy discussing the city’s popularity for spirits, fearing it would tarnish its picture.
However Mohammad al-Hashemi, a Bahla native in his seventies, mentioned most of his life has been formed by supernatural beliefs.
As a toddler he was informed tales of hyenas hungry for camels and with mouths of flames that roamed the desert at evening.
“They used to warn us not to go out after sunset because of magic,” he informed AFP in an air-conditioned grocery store.
– Phantom blazes –
Oral folklore and sure historical texts say jinn are widespread within the Arabian Peninsula’s far reaches, based on Ali A Olomi, a professor of Islamic historical past at Loyola Marymount College in Los Angeles.
Oman and neighbouring Yemen, the peninsula’s southernmost nations, “both earn a reputation as not only ancient places with great historical significance, but as lands of the jinn”, he mentioned.
“In Bahla, there are stories of phantom blazes and fires, animated desert storms, and even edifices built by supernatural forces,” mentioned Olomi, who specialises in Islamic esoterism and astrology.
A part of the explanation Bahla is rife with such tales is that it was a distant outpost in historical occasions, surrounded by desert and the dramatic Hajar mountains.
“The presence of jinn in places like Bahla can tell us a great deal about the history and culture of the Arabian Peninsula,” Olomi mentioned.
“This is a history of a people living in far-off settlements, linked precariously to other human settlements, and who keenly feel the presence of nature all around them.”
Amongst youthful Omanis, nevertheless, not everyone seems to be satisfied in regards to the jinn, together with Mazen Al Khaterri, a 24-year-old maths instructor in Bahla.
“These are just stories told by our grandparents,” he mentioned at a restaurant within the outdated souk. “We don’t know if they are right or wrong.”
However Hasan, a 30-year-old who lives in Muscat, mentioned suspicions of Bahla stay commonplace all the identical.
“My family would never let me go,” he mentioned, asking to make use of solely his first identify to guard his privateness.
“The rumours say it is a city of jinn, where they live and have more freedom.”