The UAE has become the playground for the wealthy and powerful. But beneath the jaw-dropping architectural wonders, there exist stories that cast a shadow on the dazzling lights of the cities. Here are ten creepy urban legends from the United Arab Emirates.
10 The Abandoned Palace
Built at a whopping cost of 500 million dirhams, Ras al-Khaimah’s Al Qasimi Palace stood as a testament to the luxurious lifestyle that UAE residents could afford. However, since the night the owner of the palace abandoned it, the structure has remained uninhabited for over two decades. Rumors surrounding the structure are mostly supernatural in nature. It was reported that the first day the family moved into their new home, strange happenings started to occur. Furniture would be thrown across the room, and the wailing and laughter of children were heard. The hauntings were so intense on the first day that the patriarch of the family decided to abandon the palace after just living in it for one night. Ever since then, the palace has stood empty.
Thrill-seekers who come looking for the palace and ask for directions from the locals always receive the same reply: You don’t need directions, it finds you. Those who were brave enough to stay the night reported hearing the giggles and wails of children. Some would see children’s faces peering at them through the palace’s windows. Regardless, all of them would agree that the place leaves you with a feeling of longing for it, a desire to go back to it again.
Did something sinister occur when the palace was constructed? Is the land it was built on cursed by jinns? These are the questions surrounding the mysterious palace. They have no definite answers, but we can agree that only adds to the eerie charm of the abandoned palace.
9 The Umm Al Duwais
Perhaps the most famous urban legend in the UAE is about the Umm Al Duwais, a female jinni. Jinns are supernatural creatures in Arabic folklore who can either be good, neutral, or bad. According to the legend, Umm Al Duwais was a beautiful woman with stunning features—a slim and beautiful body with long black hair. She was always dressed elegantly and would always smell of exotic Arabic perfumes, which you could detect a mile away. She would be covered in gold from head to toe and would call out to men with her lovely voice. Indeed, no man could resist her. But when they got close, she revealed her true identity of an old hag whose looks were so scary that no one could stand to look at her face. She would kill those men who were unfortunate enough to be seduced by her.
This legend has been popular among Emiratis, who use it to scare their children from going out at night. Even among adults, the term “Umm Al Duwais” is often used to describe—in a negative way—women who wear lots of makeup and perfume. The urban legend warns men to be wary when finding oneself attracted to strangers.
As an added bonus, above is an alleged video sighting of the Umm Al Duwais, captured earlier this year.
8 The Cursed Trees
In Dubai are six ghaf trees which have been fenced off and padlocked from the public. Ghaf trees are indigenous to the region and are held in high regard by many locals of the area. It is said that elders and wise men would often tell stories beneath ghaf trees and imparted knowledge to the younger generation.
However, this particular set of ghaf trees is well-known for a creepier reason. Rumors surrounding these ancient trees link them to ancient burial grounds and even the ghost of a headless merchant. They are notorious for cursing or killing those who try to cut them down. One story claims that a construction company that tried to cut down the trees had to give up because their blades kept bouncing off the trunks. Since then, the company suffered several losses and had to shut down. Another story is about a man who fatally crashed his vehicle into the trees. In his dying breath, he spoke of seeing a jinni there.
There is, however, a scientific explanation as to why these trees might be famous for being haunted. Experts say that ghaf trees release a lot more carbon dioxide at night than any other tree in the region, which might cause hallucinations for those who stay under them. But is this enough to explain all the deaths surrounding these cursed trees? Do all the paranormal stories stem from hypoxic hallucinations? Until the answers to these questions are found, perhaps it is best to stay away from any ancient ghaf tree for the time being.
7 Body Parts In The Trash
Everyone hates to take out the trash. The nauseating stench of it is enough to make our skin crawl. For residents in Dubai, throwing out the trash has become a whole lot creepier. The story goes that a resident was about to take out his trash early in the morning when he noticed the community garbage bin was surrounded by stray cats. Paying no attention to this, the man went to do his usual tasks for the morning.
Come afternoon, when it was time to walk his dog, the man once again saw the garbage bin full of stray cats. His dog naturally dragged him toward the dumpster, frightening the animals away. This time, though, the man was awake enough to realize that the foul smell coming from the bin was unusual. Having no stomach for the odor, he thought better than to find its source. His canine companion, however, was going crazy over a pile of black bags and refused to move an inch, to the protest of its owner. Resigning to his dog’s actions, the man covered his nose and decided to let it have its fun. A few seconds had passed, and the man was alerted from his stupor by a nudge from his dog. What greeted him was a sight of a human foot in the mouth of his pet. Police later found the rest of the dismembered parts inside several black bags.
6 The Unwanted Passenger
In the Emirate of Dubai, along its airport road, lies a tunnel notorious among motorists for being paranormal in nature. Several motorists claim to have experienced the supernatural when passing through the area.
Those who experienced paranormal activity there all claim to have seen a woman dressed in an elegant Arabic wedding dress. The woman would mysteriously appear in the rearview mirror as a backseat passenger when they pass the haunted area. Those who were brave enough to turn around and confront her would find the back seat empty. There are conflicting reports on whether the ghost would target lone motorists or not. But all who have experienced this commented that the woman would not make a sound nor cause any harm to the motorist. She would just stare sadly outside the car window, a deep longing embedded in her face, and would eventually disappear to thin air once the driver passed the area.
Did she die from a broken heart, waiting for her long-lost love to finally meet her at the altar? Or was she perhaps a victim of a tragic car accident on her wedding day? We may never know, but in the meantime, it might be best to use caution when checking your rearview mirror while traveling this tunnel.
5 The Villa From Hell
In the heart of Jumeirah lies a villa where a number of eerie incidents have left tenants packing their bags and shaken to their core. No one has ever lived in the villa for longer than six months. One former tenant commented that there is something in that house, and it isn’t human. Katie Naomi, a former resident, stated, “I consider myself a non-believer. But ever since we moved into the house, all kinds of strange things started to happen to our family.” These included a heavy china plate sliding across a table, the gas cooker turning on by itself, and her son’s remote-controlled cars activating on their own.
The villa is indeed haunted. A gardener for the residential community commented that it is the one place most of the staff try to avoid. They would feel a cold chill the moment they enter its compound, and dogs bark angrily at it when out for a walk with their owners.
Stories have been circulating about the villa among the UAE residents. Many have claimed that the site upon which the house was built on was once a tribal burial ground over a century ago. If you visit the government website uaeinteract.com, it confirms that the area was once a caravan stop for a trade route connecting Iraq and the UAE. Perhaps the ghost of a long-forgotten tribesman is what causes the hauntings. Angry that his eternal sleep was disturbed by the developers, he takes out his anger on the residents who occupy the villa.
Today, the villa remains uninhabited, lying in wait for the next tenant to spook.
4 HIV In Watermelons
Summers can be hellish in the UAE, which is why residents favor watermelons to beat the heat. But a popular urban legend circulating around the country’s grapevine is the presence of HIV-infected blood inside watermelons. The rumor states that watermelons imported from another Arab country were tampered with by malicious organizations to promote havoc and chaos within the region. The belief was so prevalent among Emiratis that the government was forced to issue a public statement regarding the matter. According to a government official, this rumor was baseless and had been resurfacing every few years already.
Experts on the matter state that HIV could not survive inside watermelons. Residents, however, were advised to take caution when shopping for watermelons from street vendors. So the next time you take a bite out of that juicy watermelon, try to remember that this bite might be your ticket to the AIDS club.
3 The Haunted Hotel
There is a well-known hotel in Sharjah that is rumored to be haunted. Guests often find themselves experiencing the supernatural late at nights. Room occupants would often hear shouting coming from unoccupied rooms next to them. Light switches would turn on, and showers would open all by themselves. One staff member commented that he once saw a little boy running while crying in the hallway. Fearing for the boy, the employee gave chase and saw the boy enter a particular room. When he reached the room, he noticed that the crying eventually turned to wailing. Thinking that there was a problem, the staff vigorously knocked while asking the boy to open the door. After a few minutes of no response, the staff thought it better to contact the concierge about the situation and ask for a key to open the room. To his horror, the concierge flatly informed him that there were no registered occupants in the room.
Among those frightened during their stay in this hotel was a well-decorated pilot, who wrote to the hotel management about his experience while staying there. He claimed that he felt the presence of an apparition in his room during his entire stay, which left him sleepless at nights. Many paranormal investigators visit this hotel whenever they travel to the UAE in hopes that they will experience the supernatural guests the hotel hosts.
2 The Twisted-Foot Shopper
Dubai is a well-known paradise for shoppers. From the latest fashion to savvy tech gadgets, it seems Dubai is the place to buy them, which is why retail shops intensely compete for customers’ attention. But the owner of a particular shop in the Karama district got more than he bargained for.
The story goes as follows: The shop was about to close after a long day. The owner was worried, since he hadn’t fulfilled the sales quota for that day. So he decided to keep the shop open for a bit, hoping to attract late-night shoppers. Well after midnight, the shop was the only one open for business. Finally, the owner decided that it was best to close down. As he was getting ready to do so, the door of the store opened, and a rich-looking man came in. Smelling a sale, the owner happily entertained all of the man’s questions and requests. When it was clear that the man had no intention of buying anything of value, however, the owner got annoyed and informed the shopper that he was about to close. The man hurriedly paid for a set of cheap earrings, which he claimed he would give to his daughter.
Wrapping the earrings in a box, the owner was glad that he at least got to sell something before he closed. But as he looked up to hand over the receipt and change, the man had already left the cashier’s desk. Fearing bad karma for not returning the change, the man hurriedly left to give chase. He was able to reach the customer in time before he was able to leave the shop. What greeted him was a sight that sent chills down his spine, for the shopper’s leg started to twist in an inhuman way, and along with it was a hellish smile forming on the customer’s lips.
1 Jazirat Al Hamra
The desert is indeed mysterious and wonderful, a source of adventure to many. One of its mysteries is the abandoned fishing village of Jazirat Al Hamra. Legend goes that it was once the home of three indigenous tribes who mysteriously abandoned the town for unknown reasons.
It is said that if you stay overnight at this ghost town, there is a good chance that you will encounter the jinns, who are its current occupants. Many locals in the surrounding area even refuse to visit the town during daylight in fear of the supernatural that now calls it home.
If you do plan on visiting the place, make sure to take lots of pictures. You might capture a jinn waving back at you.
I’ve been living in the UAE for 25 years. I love to visit coffee shops and converse with old people who hang out there. A sisha in hand and tea in another usually starts up a pretty good night for me. Most of what I write are stories told by the different people I come across. If not writing, you usually find me next to a shawarma stall stuffing my face.