Today Halloween is a night for dressing up in daft costumes and causing mischief, but this hasn’t always been the case. Although the festival has pagan origins, it was adopted by Christianity as a precursor to All Saints Day or All Hallows Day (Hallow’s Eve = Halloween). As myth would have it, Halloween was a day when the boundaries between the supernatural and natural world became blurred, and the souls of the dead apparently revisited the earth. Halloween then became popularised in North America during the 19th century by Irish immigrants and has since become one of the biggest Hallmark-style festivals in the US: involving parties, trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins for Jack O’ Lanterns.
However, not all countries have as much fun on Halloween: the Germans hide kitchen knives on October 31 so they can’t be picked up by evil spirits, while the Belgians deem it bad luck to travel by train or boat. Luckily, the Halloween celebrations here in Dubai are decidedly more upbeat, with something for everyone – from petrifying parties to pumpkin-inspired meals. Read on for a comprehensive lowdown on the frightfully fun activities on offer.
Creepy tales from the UAE and beyond
Three classic ghost stories to send shivers down your spine.
The Philippines: The White Lady of Balete Drive
In New Manila, Quezon city, there is a long stretch of road called Balete Drive where many taxi drivers have reported seeing a ‘white lady’ hovering near an unlit lamppost at night. The second they spy her she disappears, only to then reappear in their rear-vision mirror, her face bloody. Some say the White Lady died on the road after being assaulted, others say the story was spread to discourage people taking the road at night due to the high number of carjackings on the stretch. Which is true, we’ll never know – but would you ever brave Balete Drive?
The UAE: Jinn
According to the Qur’an, beings called jinn exist in our realm. They aren’t made of ‘clay’ as us humans are but of ‘smokeless fire’ – and so paranormal citings in the UAE are considered not to be connected to people who have passed away but to these entirely separate beings. In fact, the Qur’an says: ‘Maybe there is a jinn sitting in the corner of your room right now, or even one behind you.’ Citings of jinn are supposedly common in Nad Al Sheba, the ‘haunted’ Jazira al Hamrat village of Ras Al Kaimah, and Jumeirah.
India: Beware the town of Bhangarh
In the state of Rajasthan sits a town known for its beautiful ruins, but one that no guide will dare take you to at night. In fact, even the Archaeology Survey of India has put up a sign saying that staying there after sunset is strictly forbidden. Why? The story goes that in the 1600s a tantrik (evil magician) fell in love with the town’s princess and so cursed a bottle of her perfume to put her under his spell. Someone told her about the trick before she applied the scent and she smashed the bottle on the ground, cursing the tantrik. In a rage he then cursed the whole town and said that any resident of it would die (which the princess soon did). Apparently even the military refuses to patrol the abandoned town at night.
Top Halloween treats
Candelite gift hamper: Starting at Dhs200, the hampers can be filled however which way you want. Parents will be pleased to know that Candelite offers ‘No Guilt’ products, which are low in trans fats and sugar and mean that kids won’t climb the walls with e-numbers after consumption.
Candelite, Mirdif City Centre (04 284 0175) and Ibn Battuta (04 363 1602).
It’s Sugar lollies: These sugar-loaded swizzle sticks, starting at Dhs15, are a perfect present for little ones.
It’s Sugar Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, opposite Vox Cinemas, www.itsugar.com (04 409 9000).
Lime Tree Halloween cookies: The good people at Lime Tree have once again pulled out the stops with wonderfully crafted Halloween cookies, starting Dhs24 per bag, Dhs6 per cookie.
Various locations including 4b Street, Al Quoz 1, next to Courtyard Gallery, www.thelimetreecafe.com (04 349 8498).
Trick or treat?
We find out whether this pastime is considered harmless or haram in the Muslim world.
Trick-or-treating is a Halloween tradition that derived from Irish farmers begging for food during the Potato Famine of 1845, and it’s now an excuse for small children to dress up in bizarre attire and go from door to door asking for sweets. The attitude in Dubai towards trick-or-treating is fairly relaxed, though be mindful that some traditional Muslims believe the practice – which derives from pagan culture – to be haram. Emirati cultural expert Ali Al Saloom explains. ‘As far as I know, Halloween is the celebration of All Hallows Eve, a Christian feast rooted in a Celtic druid tradition. I know that a lot of my Muslim brothers and sisters will be shocked when realising that they celebrate a druid-fest. But I don’t want to go so far as to say it is haram.’ If your little ones want to go out hunting for lollies, it’s advisable that parents prearrange visits with other families happy to partake in the pastime, rather than knocking on strangers’ doors and risking causing offence.