Arts & Culture

El Naddaha: Egypt’s Eerie Urban Legend

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El Naddaha: Egypt’s Eerie Urban Legend

Fellah Women On The Banks Of The Nile Painting by Leon Belly
Fellah Women on the Banks of the Nile | Painting by: Leon Belly

A melancholy tune rises from the riverbed, sweetened by personal grief; it is the mark of El Naddaha, the caller. An Egyptian jinn, rumoured to stalk the night in search of fresh blood. She is no different than the Sirens of Greece mythos, relying on the hypnotic danger of a sweet, somber voice to reel in men without loyalty or curious souls in search of beauty where it does not belong.

The legend first appeared in the early 20th century, with farmers swearing to their wives and god that they had seen her on nights with bone-fog and moonlight. According to the spun tale, she pulls herself from the Nile embankment, out from the undercurrents to breathe. Black hair is plastered to her nape, dress wet and heavy where shoulders meet collar; now, she is ready for the hunt.

Her swan song carries for miles, and it is the last her prey will ever hear.

Honey-heavy and tragic.

El Naddaha is barefoot and in love with her own misery, prowling the Delta region with slow, deliberate intent. Siren-like, her voice pulls them from their homes and into her arms. A man will walk miles from his farmland, willingly kneel in black mud on the riverbanks to hold her.

Wilhelm Kotarbinsky. The mist of the Nile (Sphinx and the ...
Mist of the Nile | Painting by: Wilhelm Kotarbinsky
A Nile Woman | Painting by: Leighton Frederic

He will find her, and greet her with catatonic obedience. She will know his name. Forearms in his, she will pull him further into the water. She will sing to him, a parody of real love that he will wholeheartedly believe.

And she will drown him.

He has become one of the kidnapped.

If he is fortunate, his death will be swift and unassuming. If the man is less fortunate, El Naddaha may fall in love with him. Attached and enamoured, she will drag him down to her cavern – a hidden, dark nook where water is violent and fickle – and she will give herself to him for months.

When she grows bored, or fears abandonment, she will bury the man alive in the soil of her cavern before rising to hunt again at nightfall.

To this day, there are cautionary tales about this jinn, warning children and men alike not veer too close to the banks of the Nile – for fear of accidental drowning, and of course, an uncanny and inescapable encounter.

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With a heart for radio and an appetite for culture, Mona is a writer and illustrator based in Cairo. At the Erasmus University Rotterdam, she obtained a BSc and MA in Media, Culture, and Society, while actively writing for the faculty magazine. After graduating, Mona was an academic advisor at the American University in Cairo, as well as Managing Director of a small, campus-based advertising firm. Gears shifting, her knack for cultural research took over - enter: Egyptian Streets. Mona’s focus is tapered to issues of identity politics, culture, and social architecture.

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