Sunday, December 20, 2015

Things that go "khalas" in the night

Being a cynical sort of gal, it's a long time since I believed in ghouls, ghosties and things that go bump in the night. But, you don't have to spend long time living in the UAE to realise that cynicism about the occult and the supernatural may not necessarily be the majority view here.

I remember, when I first came to live here, being astounded that news stories about possession and hauntings by Jinn - the name for ghost or spirit in Islamic mythology, also spelt Djinn -  frequently make it into the UAE national newspapers. I assumed other expats would feel the same level of astonishment. But during a dinner with a group of friends, a couple of us joked about Jinn hiding possessions, being responsible for missing car keys and bad days at work, that sort of thing, only for one of the party to tell us in all seriousness that they were fairly sure the strange noises coming from the ceiling above their apartment were caused by an evil spirit.

It is with this in mind that we set off for Ras Al Khaimah's "ghost village", also known as Jazirat Al Hamra, on the outskirts of the Northern Emirate's main settlement. The village is said to be the inspiration for the horror movie Jinn which was partly filmed on location.

Rumours abound about why this small settlement of fishermen was abandoned over night. Some say it was some kind of chemical incident, but my favourite is that the residents were spooked one night by spirits floating towards them from the sea, and they packed their things and ran away in fright en masse. For the cynic, such a thing could be explained away by some kind of sea fret or mist.

Walking around the place, it certainly does have the air of somewhere left in a hurry:

The history of the place is plain to see - with coral from the sea built into the stone work. 

As is quite often the way when one has a small child in tow, I did not take nearly enough pictures, but Jazirat Al Hamra is definitely worth a visit for anyone at all interested in the history of the UAE. The traditional style houses, mosques and a small, picturesque fort are still in tact, neatly demonstrating how the lives of the people have UAE have changed beyond recognition in a mere half century.

The mystery surrounding the place is a source of fascination for many - you don't have to look far to find accounts from those who have visited at night in search of a supernatural experience.

But, sadly, for fans all things spooky, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the abandonment of the village. It seems in truth, the departure was not wholesale over night, but came about due to disputes between local families and offers of better living conditions and jobs elsewhere. You will also find accounts of some past residents and their descendants visiting regularly to remember the happy times they spent living there, particularly on national holidays.

It's also a good day out for ex-pats, particularly if you combine it with lunch at the Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach, followed by a cocktail at the resort's sister hotel in the desert. The beach hotel appeals to me particularly as you have to get on a little boat to get to it. Both hotels are handily in The Entertainer as well, if, like us, you don't really live on a Banyan Tree budget.

So, with the departure of the villagers explained, the question remains, would I spend a night there with a crew of ghost hunters?

Hell no.

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