x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Umm al Duwais and the mother of all frights

Everybody likes a good scare, which is why the House of Horror phenomenon looks likely to grow and grow.

A nervous visitor enters the twisted dark maze of Bayit al Rouaa', a house of horror, at Fujairah's Heritage Village. Here a frightened old lady slinks up to clutch his arm for protection when suddenly - BLAAAGH! - the she-devil exposes her ugly, cackling mug: fierce wrinkles, beaked nose, straggly white hair.

She may seem a curious ambassador of the performing arts, but she is peculiarly effective. After all, everyone enjoys a good scare.

And almost every culture worldwide conjures up images of ghosts and ghouls who delight in doing harm. As reported today, the fairy-tale monster in Fujairah is a demonic, hunchbacked hag named Umm al Duwais, created by Khalid bin Bashir Ali, who works as an assistant stage director at Sharjah's National Theatre.

Traditional Arabic fairy-tales have throughout history spoken of evil spirits, or djinn, and the Northern Emirates has had its fair share of stories over the years. And while this may at first seem an unlikely attraction, Mr Ali and his family have tapped into their audience's curiosity and the Houses of Horrors phenomenon seems set to grow.

The simple concept of using abandoned houses for social events shows ingenuity that should be encouraged in the UAE's creative community, especially the performing arts. Long live Umm al Duwais.