Legend Tripping in Egypt: Chasing Ghosts, Jinn, and Pharaoh Curses

This short series details adventures during a trip to Egypt in February 2009. The first installment is about my time in Luxor, where I had a bizarre encounter with a statue that first appeared to me in a dream.

I had a horrible dream my second night in Cairo.  In it, an animated statue with a large, crustacean-type lion’s head was chasing me. Half alien, half Pharonic-crytoid, it scurried after me in an unidentified American suburban home. After I managed to escape to the lawn, I turned back to see it peering from a second-story window. The dream itself was strange enough, but I was even more self-conscious to find I could not shake the fear upon waking. My heart was actually palpitating, seemingly taunting me for my foolishness.  This was my only certified nightmare since childhood, and I felt deeply embarrassed about the whole incident. Scary dreams are for the realm of children, not sane adults.

Later that morning, we boarded a flight to Luxor where the famous Karnak Temple and the gateway to the Valley of the Kings are located.  Luxor sits on the Nile and is deeply reminiscent of the type of Egypt that exists in the minds of most Westerners. Lush jungle hugs the Nile, quaint agricultural villages are peppered along the riverbank, and the air smells like burning hay. Once we checked into our hotel, we ventured to Karnak Temple and secured a friendly guide name Amir, also employed with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities (informed English speaking professionals can make good money as guides, and they often provide insightful information). My agenda for the visit was to research Islam’s take on jinn interdimensional beings mentioned in the Qu’ran.  While Egyptian Pharonic history is fascinating, I immediately cut to the chase and told Amir I wanted to know about jinn.  With only two days in Luxor, there was no time to waste. I was jinn-tripping.

We entered the grand Karnak temple and, after stepping over several complacent dogs randomly splayed out in the midday heat, I quietly corned Amir.

“So…are there jinn here?” I asked.

I’ll tell you about jinn,” he said, but first let me tell you about history.”  He wore Ray ban sunglasses and had a thing for Pharaohs. He took us to the map and spent five minutes detailing the genealogy of Ra and Amun. Finally, he serendipitously looked around and whispered, “I’ll take you to the place of jinn.”

I am a white American woman, but being Muslim has it advantages when carousing about in the Muslim world.  One benefit is sometimes seeing things normally off limits to Westerners. Egypt was no exception. My husband and I got in to all attractions as “locals,” bypassing the foreign rate. No one questioned when we ventured in restricted areas with Amir. He proceeded to take us to a remote edge of the Karnak compound closed to visitors. We walked some distance from the main area to an unassuming temple protected by two guards in gallebaya (kaftans) and turbans.  Amir stopped to identify a statue from the time of Alexander the Great, then opened the door to a small, dark room with a tiny window.

In the corner stood the exact statue from my nightmare.

“Oh my God!”  I bellowed. Amir was clearly pleased although ignorant as to why I reacted so strongly. Nothing was frightening or scary about the statue.  I was floored, however, to have experienced one of the most profound precognitive events of my life.  There stood a nine-foot statue of Sekmet, a lion headed goddess that was once head of a cult in the Lower Egyptian Delta.  Her deity has undergone many different incarnations, being everything from the Goddess of War to the Goddess of Blood, including menstruation.  She represents the sun and its destructive force although healing properties are attributed to her likeness.[2]  And there she stood, Sekhmet, an exact replica of the demon in my childish dream. She made a grand entrance. Unfortunately, I was horribly dressed at the time.

Amir explained her history and indicated some still come to the temple to pay homage. He claims red lights appear in photographs beside the statue (sorry, Amir, but I’m sure they are just dust orbs), and dared me to remain alone for a half an hour.  He indicated one is to be quiet while in the temple. After these required moments of silence, Amir says visitors have heard disembodied voices. I had my digital audio, camcorder, and electronic magnetic field detector with me. Unfortunately, my short visit proved uneventful in terms of evidence, but the two guards shared their personal anomalous experiences at the site.  During the heat of the day, they sometimes go into the much cooler temple to nap. Both claim to be occasionally grabbed and “choked” while with Sekhmet.

I had no knowledge of Sekhmet or the fact we would have access to the restricted site.  The significance of the dream, provided there is one, I have yet to discover. Magic and mythology dictated daily life in Pharonic Egypt, and a little bit of it spilled over into my own legend tripping! I now have a cool story to tell.

Next installment: My encounter with a mummy while in the Valley of the Nobles.

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Deonna Kelli Sayed is a writer and cultural commentator. Her forthcoming book, Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts & Hauntings, Spooks & Spirits (September 2011, Llewellyn) is a cultural studies discussion on the impact of paranormal reality TV on American society and the paranormal community.  Learn more about Deonna at www.deonnakellisayed.com, and follow her on Twitter @deonnasayed

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*Jinn is normally spelled as djinn (singular) and djinni (plural). To avoid linguistic confusion for readers unfamiliar with Arabic, I opted to drop the “d”.

**In 2006, archeologists discovered drunken sex fests were held during the reign of Hatshepsut, the lady who cross-dressed as a King, who ruled for 20 years from 1479 BC.   Sekhmet’s deity was a “girls gone wild” kind of deal, and a precursor to the Bacchus. I am not suggesting this interpretation has any personal significance regarding my dream, unfortunately.

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