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The Weird and the Eerie in Mecca

Omer Shah



In February of 2019, rumors circulated throughout Mecca of a house in the Nakassah district that was haunted by jinn. It was rumored that due to the haunting, the house could not be destroyed by the authorities. Like many working class and informal neighborhoods in Mecca, Nakassah was in the process of being unbuilt or otherwise destroyed. First the built environment, and then the mountain itself. As I followed this bit of news, I was taken with the idea of a haunted house standing defiantly on this mountainous landscape. But ultimately, the Makkah Development Authority destroyed the house -- releasing a statement confirming the supposedly haunted house's destruction. The state thus emerges unscathed by the horror of rumor and lesser tradition. This piece thus explores a set of related concepts and their articulation in the holy city, what Mark Fischer calls "the weird and the eerie" but also the foreign, the sublime, the abnormal, the accidental, and the magical. This video, a collage of videos circulated on social media (old family footage from the now destroyed Jabal Omar, ghost stories told over video games, ghost hunters, road surveillance cameras photographing the void, etc.) is an invitation to consider new mediatic landscapes of the holy city as they come to be defined by ubiquitous surveillance and state hermeneutics, but also other practices of recording and rumor.


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