Tales of djinns and black magic from Bahla Fort Oman
My trip to Oman starts with a ghost story and a haunted fort. It is a hot afternoon and I am standing at the foot of a formidable fort, which was built over 700 years ago. The blue sky is cloudless and the sun is rather merciless today. But am in a mood to listen to some haunted tales and folklore related to black magic in Oman. And this when my guide Saleh tells me , “This fort was built by a ghost in just one night.“ I look at him rather incredulously as the amazing story teller that he is stands upon a small mound and begins to narrate. I am at the imposing citadel which is the 13th century Bahla Fort, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites which is around 200 kms from Muscat. According to the story, Bahla Fort Oman was threatened by an attack from a neighbouring kingdom and the ruler reached out to a djinn or a spirit to help them. A formidable fort was built apparently overnight and the opponents beat a hasty retreat after just looking at it.
But the story does not end there. Bahla is surrounded by an aura of occult and magic. Every stone here tells a story. As I huff and puff my way up the fortress which is surrounded by a wall that is 12 kms long, I hear from Saleh that Bahla Fort has several legends of genies and ghosts haunting it. One of the legends relating to black magic in Oman is rather ominous. Apparently there was a man who was stoned to death here thousands of years ago by the locals for practising witchcraft. However people even today believe that his spirit haunts the town as well. Saleh tells us that locals believe that his spirit may be wandering around the narrow alleys of the town, the desolated walls and the old crumbling ruins. He says that even the walls may have an eerie feel to them. But I am told that trees are bewitched and people here believe that if you touch a mere branch , you may just vanish into thin air.
The silence is eerie indeed as we walk around the fort. The occult and the supernatural always fascinate me. There is another story here and this time, Saleh narrates to us the story of a flying mosque that came up around the town. Three Sufi saints lived in a hillock near the fort. It is believed that they could communicate with djinns who flew in a mosque from a neighbouring town and parked it here. However everything lies in crumbles today and the town, which was once Oman’s capital is now getting a makeover apparently under UNESCO guidance.
The sun gets harsher by the minute and we continue on our journey, If Bahla has an aura of the supernatural, then the ruins of Al Hamra leave us spellbound. Stark and naked, the ghostly mud houses of the 400 year old abandoned village stand out against the blue sky and the smattering of date palm trees. They look like they have been baked and crumbled under the heat here. The narrow alleys clone each other and it is very easy to lose your way. Suddenly I find myself surrounded by a sea of ruins.
I look up to see multi storeyed crumbling edifices with holes in them , that would have been windows at one time and for a moment, I feel an eerie presence around me. I walk away hurriedly and turn a little corner to find my guide looking out for me. According to Saleh, Al Hamra Oman was once a prosperous village under the Al Yaaribah dynasty over four centuries ago . There is a museum and a souk here with a lone halwa store and we stop to take a bite before resuming our road trip and listening to more stories.
Have you been on a road trip in Oman ? And do you like ghost stories and towns and haunted tales from an abandoned village ? Do share your experiences.