By Laila Mostafa
“Based on true events” is a statement that continuously haunts us during the viewing of any horror movie. It makes us think of the events in which the terrifying accounts of the movie took place. But, what if you found out that some of the places featured in such horror movies exist as well? Would it spark your interest to learn more about the paranormal activities and presences you so terribly love to fear in the movies? If your answer is yes, here is a list of some of the top haunted places in the Arab world. Even though these spooky spaces were not all necessarily featured in horror films, their paranormal backgrounds promise to turn your movie jump scares into a reality.
Baron Palace, Cairo – Egypt
Proudly placed in Heliopolis, Cairo, the Baron Empain Palace, better known as “Le Palais Hindou,” is a centerpiece for spooky tales and legends in Egypt. This majestic palace was built by Baron Empain, a Belgian industrialist, colonial entrepreneur and amateur egyptologist in the 1900s. Its design was inspired by the Hindu Temples of Orissa in India and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, both of which were admired by the baron.
A few years after its construction, the palace started to be surrounded by rumors of horror stories and paranormal activities. The rumors then increased with the death of the Baron’s wife, who reportedly fell to her death from the palace’s tower, and the death of his daughter a few years later. In fact, there are few who believe that the palace’s iconic tower stopped turning during the time of the baroness’ death, as if in mourning of her death. Numerous people also believed that the palace held secret tunnels that would lead to the Helopalis Basilica, where Baron Empain was buried.
After his death, the palace was abandoned, but was used as a filming location for several Egyptian films, including Huby Al Waheed, which starred Nadia Lutfy, Chouikar, Omar Al Sharif and Kamal Al Shinawi, as well as a music video by Egyptian singers Mohamed Hamak and Donia Sameer Ghanem . In June 2020, the palace officially re-opened its doors after it was bought and renovated by the Egyptian government . However, even though the palace is now open to visitors, people are still warned from staying late at night, as that is the time in which the rumored paranormal spirits and ghosts come out to haunt and possess those who dare enter.
Al Jazirat Al Hamra, Ras Al Khaimah – UAE
Strange noises. Chilling wails. Huddled whispers. These are a few of the spooky sounds that you could experience upon visiting Al Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah. The island’s homes, which were made of materials coral, stones and palm trunks were once occupied by local tribes. But today, the homes are empty; many of the tribe members have since migrated within the UAE due to urbanization and, as a result, the emergence of new homes and opportunities.
Nowadays, Al Jazirat Al Hamra is labeled as a “Ghost Town,” referring back to the tribes’ abandonment and the fact that it was left untouched and undeveloped since. However, the island’s underdevelopment does not seem to be an issue as, according to UNESCO, Al Jazirat Al Hamra is now “the last remaining traditional coastal town in the Gulf comprising narrow alleys, mosques, fort, watchtowers, and a suq set between the thousands of years old heritage of courtyard houses.”
However, the island is not only known for its history; in fact, Al Jazirat Al Hamra is most commonly known for its paranormal activities and alleged haunting incidents. In fact, this haunted reputation has grown so popular that its chilling legends spread to the West as well. Its stories were so widespread that Al Jazirat Al Hamra was chosen as one of the locations to film Ryan Reynolds’s action/thriller movie titled “6 Underground.” The movie was shot in 2018 and produced and released by Netflix in 2019.
Al Qasimi Palace, Ras Al Khaimah -UAE
Also in Ras Al Khaimah, and only a 20 minute drive away from Al Jazirat Al Hamra, is the Al Qasimi palace, an architectural marvel that was built by the late Sheikh Abdelaziz bin Humaid Al Qasimi. Completed in 1985, after taking more than 10 years to build, this grand palace (which is also known as “Al Qasr Al Gamedh”) is rumored to have been abandoned after claims of paranormal experiences were made . The four-storey palace was abandoned for more than three decades, sending shudders down the spine of anybody who passes by it. In 2019, it was opened for the public for the very first time under a new owner, Tareq Al Sharhan. Thrill seekers and art lovers alike can now explore its magnificent halls and rooms adorned with marble, moroccan tiles, fine crystal chandeliers and artistic masterpieces.
The Haunted House of Jeddah – Saudi Arabia
Sitting at approximately hundred meters from the seafront on the North Corniche is one of the spookiest haunted houses in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Its djinn-centered tales are well known among the people of Jeddah, turning even the toughest of people into petrified statues who wouldn’t dare near it.
In 2004, the house was said to have claimed 16 people who, according to Arab News, entered and never came out. Even today, the world still does not know of their whereabouts. Since then, the alleged horror house has sparked fear into the residents of the area, forcing them to file numerous complaints and begging to have the house taken down.
Bahla, Ad Dakhiliyah Governate – Oman
Situated in Oman’s Ad Dakhiliyah Governate, this desert oasis is known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; but it is also known as a haunted town . Paranormal creatures are said to live in the palm groves and the deserted houses in the town center. In fact, the common narrative and legends surrounding these spirits states that they have built the historic 12 km long city wall in one night. This horror filled legend was so popular that it allegedly drew the Western media’s curiosity and caused them to consider it as a location for American actress Kristen Stewart’s thriller movie Personal Shopper in 2015. However, an Omani official refuted this claim by clarifying that while Stewart indeed, “filmed at the Bahla Historical Fort as well as [the] 12 km Bahla Wall,” she did not film any horror scenes in the province itself. Bahla was also dubbed one of “The 10 of the world’s most haunted cities ” by National Geographic in 2014.
Roshdy Building, Alexandria – Egypt
Very little information is known to the public about this building, apart from the terrorizing screams that are reported to have been heard from the inside every night. Some justified the alleged activities in the building by claiming that it was built on the Holy Quran, which may have contributed to the paranormal and haunted behaviors inside. Another story narrates a disagreement between the building’s owners and the construction workers. The story points out that the argument was so intense that one of the workers cursed the building. Shortly thereafter, the city received news about the death of one of the construction workers, who fell to his demise while working on the top of the building. The Roshdy building is also said to have been owned by a European man, who is rumored to have drowned his children during a fishing trip.
Even though the building’s paranormal origin story differs from one account to another, they all seem to agree on the idea that the building is paranormal and filled with inexplicable, real life horrors. One of the victims of the building is said to be a religious scholar. The story goes that he died after attempting to clear the building of the widespread and horrifying rumors surrounding it. This story, amongst others, was soon thereafter used as a cautionary tale to anyone who dares nearing the building or challenges the haunted spirits residing inside. In 2017, the story of the building was the subject of a dark comedy Egyptian film of the same name, Roshdy Building.
Haunted House in Jumeirah 1, Dubai – UAE
From the haunting noises of a groaning man to the cries of a baby in the middle of the night, this house also serves as a cautionary tale to anyone who hears it. More than any other, this house is said to have experienced numerous accounts of paranormal activity. In the beginning, this 7 bedroom villa served as a home to a group of Filipinos who continuously claimed to have seen ghosts and other forms of paranormal creatures in 2011. Since then, the villa has been rumored to have the ability to possess anyone who dares to come near it.
Laila Mostafa is an Egyptian writer and a literature student at the American University of Sharjah. Her passions include arts and culture, theatre and contemporary literature. She is currently interning at Sekka.
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