Traditional Terrors: What Egyptian Parents Use to Scare Their Kids into Obedience
How else were your parents supposed to get you in bed early, Dalia? Logically? Not scarring you on a deeply psychological level? Grow up.
Every culture from around this horrific blue rock of ours has its own rich lore, unique mythology and deep, iconic (fucked up) tales and legends. The Japanese have a thing for extremely polite demons, Germans have an unhealthy obsession with graphic, psyche-rending children’s stories (Disney did you a massive favour), and Egyptians aren’t too far from the horror parlor either; hell-spawned hounds, terrifying temptresses of the night, ravenous old women and theological demons. So without further adieu, here’s all the proof you’ll need to realize your parents are proof that hell is real.
El Sala3awa – Egypt’s Most Dickish Mutant Canine
Perhaps the most famous (and most believable) mythical entity to ever plague the hearts and minds of Egypt’s weary populace, the Sala3awa is Egypt’s equivalent to the Sherlock Holmes’ Hound of the Baskervilles, except a lot less glamorous, and a lot more ghetto.
According to legend as well as accounts of folks who’ve allegedly seen the thing, the Sala3awa is what you get when you lock a wolf, a fox, a jackal and about a litre of distilled fear in an uncomfortably tight closet, and leaving them to their own devices, preferably with George Michael’s Careless Whisper playing in the background. The resulting “woxal” carries an enhanced set of traits begotten from all three of its predecessors; ungodly speed, stealth, ferocity and hunger. Though most folks remember the Sala3awa from its many news appearances in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, the beast has apparently been a thing since ancient times; it’s said to have fiercely guarded ancient Pharaonic temples, crypts and other totally not ominous locales from any would-be trespassers. In modern times, however, its haunting legend has been used to, more or less, scare children shitless in order to make them do their homework, brush their teeth, go to bed early or anything else you felt like your kid should do.
The thing about the Sala3awa is that it’s supposedly killed a pretty scary number of people as recently as last year, and it’s been at it ever since the 70’s from what folks say at least, unless some other dangerous, wild and totally realistic form of angry fuckdog pulled off all those murders (pretty unlikely, right?). Perhaps the most unsettling (and entertaining) origin story of the otherworldly mutt would have to be an old wives’ tale from the Egyptian countryside; about a newly-wed man whose wife had a sister in the next village over, whom she would visit seemingly every night. Thinking it more than just familial love, he decided to do what men do best and violate her privacy. He followed her on her way to her sister one night to figure out what the deal was, only to be horrified at the sight of his wife and her sister violently transforming into Sala3awas; digging up graves to feast on the decaying corpses within. Having found out the truth, the husband confronted her about it, sending her into a fit of monstrous rage, but she wouldn’t kill him; they had kids, and seeing as she had to skip town along with her sibling, she didn’t want to orphan them, so she spared the man and went on her merry way.
El Naddaha – Egypt’s Nile-Dwelling Naiad
Source: Ahmed El Nady
One would almost assume that the folks behind most forms of mythology were kind of sexist, what with the overwhelming number of spirits and monsters being women, or at least female. El Naddaha is no exception to that assumption; making her home in creepy cavern somewhere in the Nile, El Naddaha roams its waters and stalks its shores, looking for victims to munch on, or make love to (we’ll get to that).
Shit was boring back in the 50’s; the only form of “Internet” back then was the netting inside swimming trunks, and folks didn’t have much to do besides kick a ball, shoot pigeons, succumb to bilharzia or just sit on the banks and shores of the Nile. Kids would splish-splash in it after school, young men would walk along its shores and talk about how hard it was to find gallabiyahs that matched their slippers, and fishermen would literally make a living out of its inhabitants, save for one of them. El Naddaha’s most prolific appearance, according to legend and hearsay, is that of a pale woman of unparalleled beauty, with extremely long hair going down to her feet, draped in an almost transparent gown, which kind of makes no sense given how, supposedly, nobody’s ever seen her. Those that do catch a glimpse of Egypt’s version of a Siren are usually killed or lulled in by her trance, speaking of…
El Naddaha’s modus operandi is to watch for naïve passersby, men of any nearby village or really any example of a strong, dashing and totally shit out of luck Egyptian male, and call them by their first name in a silky smooth yet significantly loud voice, hypnotising them into becoming mindless drones, following her voice into the Nile, where she either violently pulls them down to drown and then sauté with some butter and seaweed, or she makes love with them in her dank-ass cavern for months on end, and then killing them. Other accounts say that when her call reaches her quarry in their homes, they’ll either immediately follow her voice, or spend a few nights in constant anguish and torment, until they finally succumb to her call and walk into the cold, dark water. Those who attempt to prevent her victims from surrendering to a water grave will in turn be marked by her curse, becoming the next to be called upon.
So uhhh yeah, never take your earbuds out, or never go near the Nile, maybe just stay home, don’t go anywhere, read our articles? Stay safe?
Abu Rigl Maslu5a – Egypt’s Crispy Cautionary Tale
“Crispy? What the fuck is wrong with you?” My own mother told me the same exact thing on more than a few occasions, but there’s a reason why crispy matters, friendo, nothing I do is without reason. Anyway, you’d be hard-pressed to find an Egyptian who isn’t at least somewhat familiar with any of the stories out there about Abu Rigl Maslu5a; a cautionary tale passed down from generation to generation from decades past, to scare children (again) into being obedient and proper.
The most common origin story for Abu Rigl Maslu5a, who I will continue to refer to as “Crispy” for my own convenience, is that of a particularly rowdy child in olden days; the boy had a thing for being a right pain in the ass, disobeying his family’s guidance and orders, most often playing with the one thing no child should ever play with (besides scissors, guns, sharp objects, animals, everything, etc); fire. One night, the child decided to play with either a lantern or a campfire or just fire in general, depending on your storyteller, and through some cosmic twist of miserable fate, the child slipped up and managed to get his legs immolated and horrifically scarred as a result. One of his legs became burnt beyond recognition, and the other only half burnt, and ever since that one totally unexpected turn of events, the child was utterly consumed with rage akin to the same fire that maimed him. The child became a man, and the man detested children, especially those who would disobey their parents’ commands, or become too unruly. Legend has it that Crispy would kidnap the little troublemakers and take them back to his lair; where he would cook them alive in the burning fire that made him into what he is and eat them bit by bit.
Now there’s two things I see here that are remarkable; one would have to be how this creature’s pure, unyielding fury comes from the fact that his suffering came from disobedience, and yet he punishes those who would do the same not out of just senseless evil (it’s still pretty fucking evil though), but out of a deep sadness that only he would know, seeing as everybody else who would know got uhh…eaten. The other thing is how inspirational he is; being a disfigured mythical horror hasn’t stopped this man from pursuing his passion for cooking, which is pretty damn impressive to be perfectly honest.
Omena El Ghoula – Egypt’s Morose Ghoul Granny
The elderly tend to get a lot of shit in mythology and folklore as a whole, and wouldn’t you know it, elderly women get the brunt of it; you have the wicked witch of the west, Baba Yaga, Nadia El Gendy and a myriad other examples of sullen old hags roaming the earth, gobbling up kids and adults alike.
Not ones to be too far behind the rest of the world’s ghouls and gremlins, we have our own (slightly less horrific) Baba Yaga; Omena El Ghoula (Mother of Ghouls if you want to be pretentious). You can take your pick between two depictions of Omena El Ghoula; one of them dates way the hell back to Pharaonic times, and the other is just a teensy bit more recent. In Pharaonic times, it was said that parents and teachers alike would scare their young charges with stories of the goddess Sekhmet (feel free to scream at me for being wrong here), who was known for her near-infinite power and fury, having the body of a strong woman with the head of a lioness. She would devour unruly kids (like everything else in Egypt at this point) and forever be an example of what would happen if you strayed off your path.
The other, more well-known depiction is pretty bog-standard but still very much freakish and nope-inducing; a withered old hag with glowing red crossed eyes, messy unwashed hair, a deformed flat nose and an ever so slightly gaping mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Omena would kidnap children whenever she so pleased (the more misbehaved they were, the tastier), and would sit on them with her massive, grotesque body, tenderizing their young flesh for her to swallow them whole, into her jagged, gaping maw. The story, depiction and everything else about Omena El Ghoula tends to differ from storyteller to storyteller, but they all agree on one aspect; she’s as mean as she is old, and bitch is pretty old.
Jinn – The Arab World’s Pant-Shitting Demon Derivatives
If you’re somehow a child and still reading this, don’t forget to tell your parents they’re horrible for not monitoring your online activity, and then get your shit together so no old women, ghostly mutant hounds or any other form of fuckery comes knocking at your door. Moving on, Jinn (Djinn, Genies or “Fuck No”) aren’t just exclusive to Islamic theology, they were around since before Islam was even a thing, appearing in a swatch of other religions the likes of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism, as well as other cultures entirely; each having their own flavour of dickish mythical spirit or demon.
To write about Jinn in as limited of a capacity as this article is surely a shame; given how expansive and diverse the lore behind them is, they deserve their own article (pray that doesn’t happen). So to cut it short and sweet, Jinn aren’t strictly spiritual, they’re often physical beings that are said to exist in nature just like us. Oftentimes you’ll find their depictions to be that of your garden variety demon (horns and all), almost ethereal genies popping out of anything from lanterns to your vintage can of Schweppes cream soda, or monstrous demi-human hybrids of all shapes and sizes. They get hungry and horny just like we do, they’re almost exactly like us (except the whole being dickish arsonists thing), but just a lot more annoying and generally malevolent. According to Islamic texts and general knowledge; their essence is pure, smokeless fire, they’re concealed from human vision (or live in a parallel realm), typically much faster and stronger than your average motherfucker and have their own societies. Throughout the years, Jinn have been considered sources of most of humanity’s inconveniences and illnesses; house fires, mental illnesses, sleep paralysis and even toothaches, which would probably make your dentist appear more like Van Helsing than Dr. Mo’men.
Different Middle-Eastern cultures all have their own types of Jinn, and though Islam only references a couple varieties like Marids and Ifrits, there are said to be a wealth of regional variations; Yemen’s ‘udhrut resembles a wolf capable of shape shifting into other animals, inanimate objects like stones or even just people, and though they’re not harmful physically, they do have a nasty habit of materializing right in front of people’s faces and uttering horrifying, sudden noises meant to scare the shit into and then out of them, that’s just how they get their kicks I guess. Funnily enough, all other forms of Jinn are terrified of wolves due to the animal’s innate ability to dispel or disable them. The best shapeshifters in Jinn lore would have to be the Sila (or Si’lat), capable of transforming into literally anything they so please, but mostly stick to shifting into gorgeous women, their modus operandi is to straight up just seduce and marry dudes, having children and coexisting in peaceful harmony, the remorseless motherfuckers. Jewish folk have the Shedim; preferring the beautiful, lush landscapes of decrepit graveyards and anywhere the dead like to hang out, Shedim have rooster legs, are clairvoyant and have wings, but have a tendency to spread diseases and generally just shit on everybody’s picnic. Our own Marid is said to be the most powerful Jinn in all of Jinndom; having near infinite power as well as the ability to grant any number of wishes to us mere mortals, except iPhones because Apple are just horrible with their copyrights. The catch? You have to kiss their ass (metaphorically but it can go the other way too I guess), or perform typically violent rituals in their honour, wade through a sea of corpses in battle, or spend an age in imprisonment for them to put out.
Though these few, humble specimens are only some of the examples your parents (and just about everybody else) use to scare the bajerbers out of you, they’re all essentially elaborate (and freakish) ways of saying “don’t do that you idiot.” They can also be mythical embodiments of human traits, failures and the darker side of the human experience, given literary form. There is a massive wealth of lore with all of them in all corners of the earth (Japan is just ridiculous), with each culture adding their own flavours and aspects to them. So maybe dedicate an hour or two every now and then to delving into the kinds of horrors humanity is so adept at crafting, and if you have your own interpretations of my examples, or entirely different legends of your own, feel free to share them in the comments and try not to draw any pentagrams or slaughter chickens or whatever, we have guns now.