This takes a lot of research.
First, one has to sit back and detach themselves from what we in the West have identified with what we are familiar with for haunted places. The closest we know about African or Middle Eastern ghost stories or hauntings would be lore about ancient tombs in Egypt being opened. To some extent, this could also include romanticized versions of Eastern European ghost stories that include Dracula.
The second thing one has to do is explore the culture and religion that is predominant in the Middle East. Like in the West, where the predominant religion is Christianity, it is not the only religion. And in some cases there are those who do not identify with any religion. In the Middle East, the predominant religion is Islam. Islam, naturally, is not confined to just the Middle East, as there are those in North Africa and moving into Central, South Central, and Eastern Asia who are devote followers of Islam.
In Islam, and in the Quran, there is no mention of ghosts, but there is mention of Jinn, or an alternate spelling djinn. These are described as supernatural spirits that live in the unseen dimensions of the universe beyond human sight. The jinn are mentioned quite frequently in the Quran, and the 72nd sura of the Quran is titled Sūrat al-Jinn. The Jinn, together with humans and angels, are considered to be the three sentient beings created by God.
We now have that bit of research, but I know there’s several who jumped in excitement because of the familiar “djinn”. Another spelling is in fact genies, but this is completely removed from the Disney Aladdin which is again a Western view of the Middle East. In Arabic, jinn means (loosely) “hidden from sight”, or “to hide” or “to be hidden”. The word genie comes from the Latin genius, which was believed to be a guardian spirit assigned to protect a person from birth. While jinn is referenced frequently in the Quran, the word has pre-Islamic history. Markings found in Northwestern Arabia refer to the worshiping of jinni or at least their tributary status.
In Islamic times, jinn were seen similar to humans in that they have free will. They live in communities similar to humans, but often in remote locations and even in the air. While they appear invisible to humans, humans do not appear clearly to jinn. They have customs, laws, kings and queens and even mourning rituals. The Quran says that upon the day of judgement, even the jinn will be judged and sent to live in Paradise or Hell depending upon their actions. Jinn, because they have free will, often dictate their actions either as good or evil. Some will aid humans, while others will find delight in provoking or harming them.
There are major differences between jinn as viewed in the West and in the East. Some might even say culture shock, especially as experienced in such writings as The Caliph’s House and In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah. Tahir Shah moved from London to Morocco and lived in what was described as a jinn occupied home. And just to make the distinction, In Arabian Nights has very little to do with the adventure story 1001 Arabian Nights, which is a collection of folktales from the region. Tahir Shah, by the way, born in London, is a humourist author who has also been involved politically in creating the East-West Bridge, which came about after the September 11 attacks.
Often people can create a protection against any ill will a jinn may want to cause. A talisman or tawiz as referred to among Sufi circles, will aid in the protection against spiritual evil. This includes the protection against jinn, who, as mentioned before, are considered to have free will of their own.
As far as hauntings go, there may in fact be haunted places anywhere in the Middle East. Civilizations in that region has existed for thousands of years. But as much as I could find, there is always those who point to places which are not so much haunted, but very spiritual. Those include:
- Mount Sinai (Sinai Peninsula, Egypt) – Where Moses is alleged to receive the Ten Commandments from God.
- Mount Ararat (Eastern Turkey) – Very important symbol of Armenian culture. In addition, the Bible mentions the “Mountains of Ararat” as the resting spot for Noah’s Ark.
- Mount Arafat (near Mecca, Saudi Arabia) – A very small mountain (more like a large hill) where Muhammed is supposed to have given his Farewell Sermon 72 days before his death. It remains an important part of the “Hajj” – an important Islamic pilgrimage that takes place in Mecca, which every muslim is to take at least once in their lifetime.
Much of what I did find was located in Afghanistan, which isn’t really in the Middle East, it’s actually in Central Asia. Greater Middle East, perhaps. But it’s not IN the Middle East, especially when one considers it borders Pakistan. However, there are a couple of notable instances which could be called hauntings.
Afghan – Tajikistan border – Hindu Kush mountains – The “Ail”, feminine looking entities with floating hair, pale eyes resembling milky white orbs and glacier pale skin are said to inhabit the region whenever the suns rises so high, that you cannot see your own shadow, or at twilight. Even though they normally go on about their business, it is best to treat them with respect, since the Ail are known to be quite violent and hostile. That is why you almost never see any villagers or nomads out during those times in the day.
Kabul – Kabul University - It has been told that some of the abandoned dorms and abandoned classrooms were used by the Taliban to torture and kill people whom dare defy them. While some foreign aid workers were helping out on re-building Kabul University, it was said by many that they smelled the foul scent of rotting flesh, feces and other bodily wastes. Others said they also saw the entities of the victims that were tortured to death by the Taliban or heard screaming and crying in pain, when there was no one there.