Growing up, we’ve all been threatened by our mothers with “ghoul” or “Efrit.” She said they would come and eat us if we didn’t finish our plate.
Well, these weren’t just tricks our moms came up with to force us to behave. These are actual pre-Islamic Middle Eastern mystical creatures.
Prior to Islam the Kaaba of Mecca was covered in symbols representing a myriad of demons, djinn, demigods, or simply tribal gods and other assorted deities. These represented the polytheistic culture of Arabia.
Here are a few of the most popular creatures.
Known as "genies" in English, djinn have deep roots in Arab culture. The djinn first sprang from stories told by Indian, Persian and Arabian storytellers. They gained international fame when they appeared throughout the tales Scheherezade told in "The Thousand and One Nights".
It is said that djinn are created from fire and can take on any form they choose – animal or human – and can be of any size. Most of them are hostile, although some can be friendly.
A qareen is a personal djinn that exists opposite you in the parallel djinn realm. In a sense, it is like an immaterial demon that sits on your shoulder and encourages you to sin and do wrong.
This creature is rumored to inhabit the underworld and will come out when the world ends. It looks like a snake, but a huge one! His job is to torture sinners after the world ends.
Nesnas has the form of a man divided down the middle, with one half completely missing, and it has the tail of a lamb. This monster supposedly originates from the Hadramaut region of Yemen.
And we wouldn't want to come across one, ever!
The name al ghol derives from Arabic “ras al-gul”: head of the ogre. The English name “demon star”, is a direct translation.
Ghouls are thought to be zombie-like djinn, who haunt graveyards and prey on human flesh. They are strictly demonic and incapable of goodness. Often portrayed as nocturnal.
Remind us to never go to a graveyard after dark again ... ever!
Intelligent and cunning, the efrit are thought to live in complex societies similar to those of humans. They are said to prefer caves and underground dwellings. Though ostensibly demonic, they are portrayed as being able to change, and are capable of becoming pious and good.
Werehyena are humans who turn into hyenas. Just like werewolves, except with hyenas. However, the mythological creature is larger than a hyena and can stand on two legs. They are also known to be ruthless and brutal.
Are you team werehyena or team wereworlf?
8. Al Anqa’a
This creature has nothing to do with demons, but it’s also a supernatural creature. It looks like a giant bird and can fly away with anything it can carry, from animals to humans.
The name in Arabic means: “the one with the long neck”. This creature was mentioned in ancient Arab legends and books such as “Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing”.
9. Al Bahmout
Arab legends describe this creature as a giant whale that carries the seven earths on its back. In other stories it is described as an elephant or a seahorse.
10. Al Rukh
This is another giant bird, capable of carrying massive things as big as elephants and rhinoceroses. This mythical creature was mentioned in one of Sinbad’s stories in "The Thousand and One Nights".