By Laila Mostafa
Located approximately two hours away from Muscat, Oman is one of the largest chamber caves in the world, also known as Majlis al-Jinn. The cave lies in a small town in Qurayyat, Oman, and has an area of 58 thousand square metres and a capacity of 4 million cubic metres. According to the Omani Ministry of Tourism, Majlis al-Jinn was disocvered coincidentally during an expedition to find underground water reserves, when three peculiar holes ( which would later be revealed as vertical entrances to the chamber cave) appeared in aerial photographs. It was first descended into by American hydrogeologist Don Davison Jr. and his wife Cheryl Jones in 1983 and 1984, respectively, in an effort to unravel its mysteries and discover its secrets. Writing about his story with the cave for Aramco World in 1990, Don Davison Jr. describes:
“The dimensions of Majlis al-Jinn are staggering… it is roomy enough to hold more than a dozen new Boeing 747’s, parked wingtip to wingtip. The largest indoor stadium in the world, the Superdome in New Orleans – 207 meters (679 feet) in diameter and 83 meters (272 feet) high, with a seating capacity of 97,365 – could easily be contained within the cavern’s volume, with room for a 1600-car parking lot besides.”
It is said that throughout their investigation, the couple decided to ask the local Omani residents of the area if the chamber cave had a name, but they received no answers. However, they did learn that the area of the cave was known to be surrounded by a few stories and legends in Omani mythology. Specifically, the stories surrounding the area were ones related to djinns and other forms of spooky paranormal activities. Inspired by the stories, the couple decided to name the cave “Majlis al-Jinn,” which is an Arabic name that loosely translates to “the meeting room of djinn (spirits).” However, it is also known non-officially as Kahaf Salma, amongst other names.
Since its discovery, Majlis al-Jinn has attracted numerous adventorous residents and tourists to make the tough 120 meter descent by rope through one of the three fall drops on the cave’s roof, and explore its hidden marvels. In fact, Majlis al-Jinn has become a well-known host for abseilers, base-jumpers and climbers. One of the well known athletic projects to take place in the chamber cave involved professional climbers Chris Sharma and Stefan Glowcaz, who managed to safely climb out of the cave after approximately two weeks of climbing in 2014. Prior to that, Majlis al-Jinn hosted the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, who base jumped into the cave in 2007.
Estimated to be approximately 50 million years old today, the cave is a natural wonder because of its geological formation and the wildlife that resides within it, which includes snakes, bats, birds and insects, all of which are made visible by holes on the cave’s roof that beautifully allow the sunlight and moonlight through. The Omani Ministry of Tourism is currently developing a few mechanisms to facilitate potential tourists’ presence and ensure their safety while also maintaining an educational and entertaining experience. Visitors to the cave today need to secure special permission from the ministry prior to doing so.
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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