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Jinn are a class of supernatural creature made of “smokeless fire” that are mentioned in the Quran and throughout Islamic mythology. Whilst there are benevolent examples to be found, such as the genie of the lamp from the story of Aladdin, jinn are often portrayed as malevolent, shape-shifting tricksters. These extremely powerful beings are said to have an inclination towards wrongdoing, most especially after many of them followed the evil lead of Iblīs, a jinn who disobeyed orders and refused to bow to the superiority of the first man, Adam. The Islamic equivalent of Christanity’s Satan, Iblīs, supported by his horde of demonic jinn, vowed to lead humans astray and bring about their downfall.
It could be said that this destructive vow can be felt mostly strongly in a desert town in Oman. Situated in the shadow of a vast mountain range, the town of Bahla is home of one of the oldest fortresses in the country. From this medieval stronghold, the Banu Nebhan, the area’s dominant tribe, ruled for three centuries. It is the town’s historic importance as a “center of military, religion, and politics” 1 that supposedly made it a focus for demonic activity, for it is said that “powerful people attracted powerful jinn.”
Stories circulated around town about the frequent appearance of powerful spirits. One local legend even claims that jinn built the twelve kilometre wall which encompasses the fort in a single night. 2 Yet, not all supposed encounters were described as being so compassionate. It was whispered that evil jinn roamed the town, attacking and eating both dogs and humans. 3
Far from belonging to Bahla’s medieval past, the prevalence of jinn in the town is still widely believed by present-day inhabitants. When interviewed by a reporter for an Omani weekly publication in 2018, a 76-year-old local shopkeeper stated that “Bahla is very different to other cities in Oman.” The old man described how the “trees, rocks, mountains” and even shadows of the town are home to a plethora of jinn. When asked why, he explained how “they keep an eye on everything that happens here,” referring to Bahla’s historic importance. 4
When searching for other stories, it is not difficult to find other equally, if not more, sinister reports of jinn in Bahla.
One family have related how they supposedly woke each week to a low moaning noise coming from outside their house – and how each week they would find peculiar and meticulous mounds of rocks and sand placed directly beneath the window of the room where their infant son was sleeping. 5
Another case describes the possession of a 30-year-old man by jinn. His brother claims to have found him “muttering unintelligible words” against a wall on several nights. An exorcist who operates in the area claims to have treated over 5,000 similarly afflicted people over the course of his two decade-long career.6
“They want to tear us apart—our minds, communities, with arguments, disbelief, everything. And all the time the jinn are still here, waiting. This is the burden of Bahla.” – Harib al-Shukhaili, a zar exorcist
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Arguably most frightening, however, is an incident described by Muhammed al-Hinai, a local man who attended the country’s premiere university and worked in a senior position at a nearby factory. Spontaneous fire, he claims, was the doing of jinn. In early 2015, behind his home in Bahla, green flames supposedly erupted from the sand and hovered above the ground for several minutes. As the fire blazed, the man claimed he heard a chilling cackling echoing within the flames. The inferno was spontaneous, and had no known cause – having happened on a cold and cloudless night in the middle of winter. The journalist who recorded his experience reported that the man’s fingers shook as he recalled that night. He was clearly terrified, and quickly ushered the journalist indoors, away from the site of the ominous event, lest the jinn strike again. 7
The frequency of similarly terrifying happenings being reported in Bahla is disturbing. With so many reports, it would seem that this desert town may very well be under assault by demonic forces.
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