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18 July, 2006

Sorcerers of the sandlands

Could it be time for Dubai Magic City? Sorcery is apparently "big business" in the region, with a roaring trade in stone tablets, animal pelts, claws and pre-Islamic artifacts.

Sadly the illegality of magic in the sandlands means it's not being given the historic and ethnographic attention it deserves, according to historian Peter Hellyer:

But he said there was a strong underground belief in ancient, animist practices among some people in the Gulf states.

"There is a tradition of belief in magic in much of southern Arabia but very little research has been undertaken into it," he said.


It is fascinating how these ancient practices and superstitions have survived for so many thousands of years, even after the arrival of Islam. They should be studied, to better understand the early history and pre-history of the UAE.

Bringing these practices out into the open might also debunk a bit of their mystique, saving future morons from shelling out Dh750,000 on magical lumps of rock.

Labels: ,

31 Comments:

Blogger Taunted said...

People are so stoopid don'tcha think?

Come on AED300,000+ for a bit of polished rock.

Remember the proverb "A fool and his money are soon parted"

18 July, 2006 09:20  
Blogger sand in the vaseline said...

It happens all the time... Nakheel and Tamweel are built on the principle that "fools" will part with 300K+ for their "polished rocks"...

18 July, 2006 09:25  
Blogger Samawel said...

How about Oman Magic City. They've got a better grip of sorcery, historical-mythologically.

My grandma would always tell me about the flying witches coming from Albaatna, in Oman. One tip: if you see one, pierce the ground with a knife, the witch wont be able to fly, until the knife is removed. hehe

18 July, 2006 10:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

click here to save your soul

18 July, 2006 14:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

click here and save your soul quicker

18 July, 2006 14:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

crap.

stupid html

Just bloody click here .

18 July, 2006 14:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

woo hoo. it finally works.

18 July, 2006 14:26  
Anonymous JPH said...

Yep, it really is amazing how the pre-modern belief in magic can still express itself in the most alarming ways round these parts. Forget the huge sums spent on magic rocks - my favourite is the child sacrifice made by drivers who balance their two-year-olds on the dashboard in the belief that it allows them to drive centimetres from your bumper at 180kph.

18 July, 2006 15:31  
Blogger nzm said...

As part of the Dubai Summer Surprises, DXB is full of Modhesh effigies and posters, as well as fun for the kids while waiting for the bags to come off the carousels.

They can get their names written in fine Arabic calligraphy and their faces painted.

Before the immigration counters, they can watch tricks performed by an Indian magician!

Seems that magic is accepted if:
- it's not black or sorcery/witchcraft
- performed by people not of Arab descent, and
- in the airport environs before you officially enter the country

:-)

18 July, 2006 16:18  
Anonymous fellow atheist said...

There is a distivt difference between illusions and magic. Magic doesn't exist, but some are very good at creating illuions (and we sometimes call those magicians). However, when you're talking about sorcery (what magic is really supposed to mean), then it's a whole other game.

I can understand those who believe in it (that's fine, their business -- I don't believe in it). However, 'magic shows' surely are illusions, which would not be illegal anywhere (if and when defined as such).

18 July, 2006 18:02  
Anonymous huh? said...

Today's WTF moment comes to you from the Government of India

19 July, 2006 11:57  
Anonymous foo said...

SD-> Noticed that you have added a link to emiratesmac on the main page. Guess you would be intrested in this; cooking an egg on a macbook pro

19 July, 2006 12:53  
Blogger DubaiSceptic said...

SD, Tsk, tsk. Sorcerors? Sorcerers even?

19 July, 2006 13:43  
Blogger secretdubai said...

*blush*

Fixed!

Thanks ;)

19 July, 2006 14:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SD

Have you started taking advertisements on your blog?
Way to go!

$$$$$$$$$$$$$

19 July, 2006 14:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

much of the world believes in magic and witch craft. it is mentioned in the quran as well and is not "pre-Islamic" versus Islamic though the traditions of black magic in the gulf are older than the gulf has been a muslim region. It is more that Islam is about faith in God and not about trying to change fate or curse people by enganging the devil or supernatural forces. and ultimately none of these forces are allowed success w/out the predestination of God anyhow. so it is illegal to practice it in Shari'ah interpretations. african traditions like "zar" and the ones of the magic cities of batna and bahla in oman are just the tip of the iceberg. guess what, filipinos, and s. asians believe in witch craft, too. and so do indonesians. it looks like the main skeptics are the western expats. magic is everywhere here, real, and as we can see from this article, fake and exploitative. the saudi govt actually beheaded people for practicing witch craft before...um, a bit extreme, i think. i think magic makers should be left alone until they start trying to sell magic rocks and con people and all that, in which case they aren't true magicians, they are just con-artists.

19 July, 2006 18:01  
Blogger secretdubai said...

guess what, filipinos, and s. asians believe in witch craft, too. and so do indonesians.

So do those in western nations, hence the whole bogus "wicca" movement, new age shops, and our hallowe'en legends and folklore of old women flying on broomsticks boiling up trouble in cauldrons.

19 July, 2006 18:29  
Anonymous Harry in a pot said...

SD @ 18:29
You forgot the whole Harry Potter thing there.

19 July, 2006 18:47  
Anonymous heretic said...

Doesnt anybody remember the stories from a few months ago (if not give it time it'll recur), of locals paying obscene amounts of money to africans who are going to double their money with "magic"..?

Lets face it.. it may be illegal, and it may be against their religion, but greed, thats one excuse to believe in magic..

20 July, 2006 11:30  
Blogger al-republican said...

With respect to magic vs. illusion:

1- Can someone please differentiate between the two? I think it will make the matter clearer.

2- How many of you believe in creations other than human beings? Stupid question?

There are a lot of creatures besides humans. Not so long ago we humans didnt know too much about microscopic organisms, but they did exist. Stretching this to creatures and beings we humans still have no clue about is what we in Islamic circles know as JINN. The Westerners know this concept (after intermingling with Muslims) as genie in lamps or bottles.

The truth of the matter is that among God's creations, there are 2 creatures who were bestowed with the freedom of choice: Human Beings and Jinn. Since a lot is known about human beings let me just concentrate on Jinns. Jinn are made of smokeless fire. Jinns should not be confused with Angels (who are made of light and DO NOT have freedom of choice). The Christian concept of knowing Satan/Lucifer as a disobedient Angel is a confusion due to its literature and the original divine texts not existing in their original language of revelation. Lucifer/Satan is actually a Jinn and not an Angel. Jinns were created before mankind. Contrary to popular belief, Jinns do not look like human. Although they can take the shape and form of any created being. They also aren't constricted by space.

Relating this to magic, a lot of people use Jinns to show "tricks" which are definitely not illusions. In fact, exorcism works on this principle of Jinns. Jinns live in tribes and every tribe has a king. These kings are very well-connected with one another and have complete control on their subjects. Therefore, when a "spirit" (Jinn) enters a human body, exorcists contact the kings of these Jinn (if the Jinn refuses to leave the person's body).

A crash course on Jinns!

Cheers!

20 July, 2006 11:46  
Anonymous heretic said...

How does al-republican know so much of Jinns..? Does ANYONE have any evidence of such..? This is religious dogma at best, believing what another tells you with no evidence to support the hypothesis.

Lets face it, all magic and illusion is done with the purpose of control and to make the average joe part with their money. Making money from blank pieces of paper by magic, jinns, magic talismans, charms, children of Nigerian dictarors promising you TWENTY SIX MILLION US DOLLARS, are all collectively called bullshit.

Does anyone have any evidence..? Other than hearsay..? does anyone have a bottle with a genie in it..? If they do, they should publish it in a scientific journal and collect a nobel prize..

20 July, 2006 12:28  
Blogger al-republican said...

Heretic-

What kind of evidence are you looking for? Kindly elucidate.

This is not just about magic tricks and illusions. People use Jinns to harm others. If you have not witnessed or heard about such things then that can hardly be a proof against the existence of such phenomenons. Voodoo magic of someone inserting a pin in a doll with the hair of the victim is a FACT. Science cannot explain it because it hasn't advanced to that stage. But, the fact remains that such voodoo practices are real and are carried out by controlling Jinns.

If you will believe only if you see then try learning this art (yes, it is an art form) from people who practice it. You will see all the evidences you require. There is no illusion in hurting a person (as in voodoo practice). Furthermore, the influence of Jinn is also used in predicting the future (a la Nostradamus) amongst a host of other things.

There is a reason why such practices are referred to as "occult" in nature.

20 July, 2006 13:36  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Voodoo magic of someone inserting a pin in a doll with the hair of the victim is a FACT.

Is it? Care to point us to any scientific studies or research on this?

I'm fairly open minded, but I have yet to see any scientific proof for anything paranormal. And when you talk about "facts", then you are talking about undisputed scientific proof.

A belief is not a fact. Widespread anecdotal evidence is a not a fact.

20 July, 2006 13:43  
Blogger al-republican said...

SD-

The reality of Voodoo practices is acknowledged to exist. That is what I mean by it being a FACT. How is it caused is a mystery to even modern science. Science has a limit to what it can explain and cannot. Perhaps one day science will have an explanation to paranormal and occult activities. Like I said, just because Science cannot offer an explanation does not mean it does not exist. I am using simple English here!

The realm of these occurrences is spiritual in nature. Unfortunately, it is an increasing trend in human beings that they are abandoning the spiritual aspect of existence.

Besides, there are a lot of things science still hasn't explained that you very easily believe. Homosexuality being one of those things! And there are a host of other things that mankind believes today for which Science has no explanation.

I know it will hurt all of your egos, but Science had, has, and will have limits to it. There is only one thing in this entire world that is Limitless in Knowledge - God Almighty. There are a lot of things in Scripture that people of the past made fun of on lack of scientific evidence only later to be proved wrong themselves. This list is so long that I wont even bother!

20 July, 2006 13:56  
Blogger al-republican said...

Disclaimer:

I am saying all this just to discuss the reality of such things. I certainly do know how artists use illusions to dupe people out of their money. I have experienced such illusions personally where I saw a person triple gold ornaments only for us to see it to be an illusion after this con-artist left.

These fakers do not take away from the truth of black magic, which is learned by evil-minded people by indulging in ugly occult practices.

20 July, 2006 14:02  
Blogger secretdubai said...

The reality of Voodoo practices is acknowledged to exist.

It is a fact that people practice voodoo. It is not a proven fact that it works - or rather that it works through supernatural forces, rather than the power of suggestion, for eample. It may be observed anecdotally, believed, even widespread, but that "voodoo" works (in a "magic" way) is not fact.

I am not dissing religion here, but you cannot talk about paranormal matters using the language of science. Religion and magic are faith/belief based, science is theory/evidence/proof based.

We cannot prove God. We may all believe that God exists, but we cannot prove God as a fact. Perhaps, if you like, because God transcends proof. It is not "dissing" God to acknowledge this.

20 July, 2006 14:38  
Blogger al-republican said...

SD-

Points taken. However, in order to prove something there are some things that have to be assumed to setup a framework. For example, modern science states that proving theory X is based on the assumption that available data at the time suggests as such. Science, therefore, always acknowledges its limitations and hence theory X can be disproven tomorrow if new revelations suggest as such.

Now science works on assumptions that are material and apply to the basic senses and laws. Can this framework be applied to supernatural occurrences? Mostly, no. They are different dimensions and all one can do is explain one another with relative examples (relativity if you will).

Surely, inserting a needle in a voodoo doll will inflict pain on the individual on whose name and whose hair strand it bears. I can make a doll with a hair strand of a person, but inserting a needle won't do anything. Because voodoo practice requires the utterance of "kalaam" (hard to come up with an English equivalent, but I guess the closest would be VERSES) that in the language of its deliverance is evil. Now how does one explain the correlation between the pain inflicted on the doll viz-a-viz the actual pain to the individual? How does uttering those words (plus doing some other things) lead to this CAUSE?

The key lies in understanding the utterances used by these black magicians. These wordings clearly indicate how one is trying to control an unseen force to inflict pain on an individual.

Lastly, just like you have ugly occult practices such as these, you also have good experiences of the unseen. In contemporary terms it is known as the "6th sense" some human beings possess. In fact, it is something that any human being can experience if you take the time of treading the path of spirituality. Alas, life is more fun bashing the daylights out of those "dirty towelhead terrorists".

20 July, 2006 16:19  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Al-Rep - I'm not quite sure what motivated your last sentence there. Nothing in this post or its comments could be described as "bashing" Arabs or Muslims. It has been pointed out that belief in magic applies to people of all faiths and ethnicities.

That sentiment is certainly not one I share, nor the vast majority of commenters to this blog. Were I to get race-hate comments I would delete them, but I haven't had them (on this blog) for many many months.

20 July, 2006 16:30  
Blogger al-republican said...

SD-

I said that because that is the general perception over here about me. I was just a swipe at people who are reading this and thinking "there goes that al-republican guy again" hehe.

As per your hate comments and zero tolerance thereof, refer to your blog entry "On the birdwalk" where one of the introductory comments by an anonymous individual (12 July, 2006 11:48)pasting a website labeling Islam as a religion of terror has yet not been deleted by you.

Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I sincerely hope you missed it.

Cheers!

20 July, 2006 16:37  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Of course Jinns exist.

They are particularly pleasant when taken with ice, lemon, and tonic.

21 July, 2006 14:46  
Anonymous Tree said...

Al Rep. You really spoilt my perception of you as an individul. You seemed for the most part a very interesting and intelligent individual. You have very clear views and a great way of explaining and reasoning with your beliefs. I do believe in magic myself. I am not sure to exactly what degree but i think it could be possible that these pratices exsist and work. Without any proof that they do or do not i will keep an open mind.

You comment on Bashing was a little strange. I am sure that in this day and age people are able to accept views and have debates about differences in opinions ? It's sad to think that people are still so sensitive and easily offended that they bring it back to race and religion disputes.

Dubaisecrets. Well done for pointing out that the comment was not called for and for your 0 tollerance on these kinds of comments. But really you need to open your mind a little. Al Rep is quite right when he says that science has not caught up yet. But how can you explain some thing that happen. Do you believe in Luck. Could that be magic ? Could someone be putting good magic on you ?

Magic does not always have to be bad.

I think if we do not have proof either was we should keep an open mind that it may be possible.

10 April, 2007 16:00  

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