Arab Today, arab today uae\s longlost djinn find a new voice
Last Updated : GMT 07:02:09
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

UAE\'s long-lost djinn find a new voice

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today UAE\'s long-lost djinn find a new voice

Abu Dhabi - Arabstoday

A possessed sail that sinks ships. A djinn who seduces men and kills them with her bladed legs. A ravenous donkey that gobbles up little children who wander the streets when they should be at home with their parents. Djinn of the emirates are notoriously vicious. When the students of Zayed University are asked to name the most common characteristic of local djinn, they don\'t hesitate. \"Dangerous,\" says Athira Al Yammahy, a storyteller at Zayed University. \"They kill.\" The country\'s most famous djinn sear themselves in children\'s memories through sheer terror. Today, just a handful of the original djinn are recalled in popular folklore, but they are the cruellest and bloodiest of them all. Ms Al Yammahy is one of the women who want to change this. She is a member of the university\'s Kharareef (Storyteller) Club that has revived the country\'s forgotten djinn with a book of Emirati fairy tales, Story Mile, to be published this year by Zayed University. The book\'s stars are djinn on the brink of extinction. One of them, Salama, is the spirit of a seaside mountain who protects sunken treasure. Other resurrected djinn include Sabr, the ugly, hunchbacked labourer of the souq whose patience brings him luck and success; Fatouh, the long-nosed protector of the mangroves; and Shang, the friendly giant isolated by his size. \"When kids are asked about their favourite characters they don\'t really remember any of these characters, they remember Disney princesses,\" says Noora Abdulrahman, 21, a Zayed University student who helped illustrate the book with her identical twin, Nauf. \"So we want them to think a little bit more about what the Emirates have. \"There is one that defends the souq. His name is Abu Ras,\" she says. The name means Father of the Head. \"Abu Ras is actually a very friendly one. He guards the souq from thieves and thugs. He\'s so ugly to the point that he\'s shy ... seriously, he needs to be remembered a little bit more. Nobody really remembers him.\" The search for sympathetic characters led the club to Abdulaziz Al Musallam, the country\'s foremost story teller, who mentored the students. He has collected fairy tales from the mountains, desert and coast since 1986. \"The parents would tell the children stories to protect them and keep them safe, so all the stories that the students would remember were really terrifying characters that would kill them, that would eat them,\" says Brioné LaThrop, an English professor and former music video writer who heads the Kharareef Club. \"It all ends in death. When I talked to Abdulaziz I said, \'you know, we want to kind of make the characters kinder and friendly\' and he said there were lots of really benevolent characters.\" Many of the gentle characters were forgotten by all but one or two people when Mr Al Musallam recorded them. Fatouh - a tall, naked man, with long hands, long legs, long fingernails and cat\'s eyes - was described to Mr Al Musallam by an old man in Kalba named Othman. Abu Ras was remembered by a Sharjah man interviewed in the mid-1980s. Most students knew only of the famous temptress djinn, Umm Al Duwais, and a handful of others when the project began in November. Even their grandparents had forgotten the stories connected to the names. To revive the spirits of the past, students placed them in the present. In one story, a man is entranced by a perfumed colleague who seduces him with text messages. In another, a man strays from his bride when he moves to Ireland for university. The fairy tales are a way to address frustrations or taboos that cannot be easily voiced in public, such as infanticide, sibling jealousies and adultery, say the students. From : The National

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