A terrifying creature from the east … The “Saalwa”

By : Ayad Al Attar

Saalwa or Saalah is a frightening creature from the ancient Arab folklore, conceived by the ancient Arabs as a devious and deceptive female demon (Succubus). They used to tell many stories about her tricks and how she manipulates people. They said that she is a witch of the jinn, and that she has the ability to transform in various forms, sometimes in the form of a kind old woman who deceives young children and takes them with her to eat them. And sometimes in the form of a beautiful woman who hunts men traveling alone in the remote desert to manipulate and distract them and then suck their blood …

She is an old Vampire, much older than Count Dracula and his companions who we see in Hollywood horror films. Even today, some mothers in Arab world still fear their children with this terrifying creature.

Al-Masudi (896–956 AD) mentioned the Saalwa in his book Ajayib Alzaman “Wonders of Time”. He said: “Some of them hunt men traveling alone in the desert; she will hold and manipulate the man until he falls and sucks his blood”

As for Al-Qazwini (1203–1283 AD), he wrote about Saalwa in his book Ajaib al-makhluqat wa gharaib al-mawjudat “The Wonders of Creation” saying: “If she caught a human being, she would dance and play with him as the cat plays with the mouse”.

He also said about her: “Perhaps the wolf caught her at night to eat her, if this happens, she raises her voice and say: “Help me, the wolf has eaten me!”. And perhaps she says: “Who saves me, I have a thousand dinars, and I will give it to him”. But the people know that it is the shouting of Saalwa, so no one will save her and the wolf will eat her”.

It seems from what Al-Qazwini wrote that the supernatural powers of this creature collapse in front of a predatory animal like a wolf, and so it is a creature that can be killed and disposed of.

Al-Jahiz (776 – 868 AD) says about Saalwa in his book al-haywan “The Animal” : Saalwa is a jinn female if she does not transform to seduce the travelers. They said she does it for fun, or perhaps she frightens a handsome man and changes his mind, in order to control him, because she can’t control the right mind”.

As for Al-Damiri (1344–1405 AD) in the book Hayat alhywan “Animal Life”, he says: “Saalwa: The most malicious of the ghouls … is what appears to people during the day, and the ghoul is what appears to people at night.”

She appears as a beautiful woman in a desolate, deserted places

It seems that she does not have the ability to transform into a woman only, but also has the feelings of a woman. They say she loves men, sometimes deceive them to make them marry her and probably she gave birth to children!..

Al-Masudi wrote about this, saying: “They said that some of them are take the form of beautiful women to marry men. As in the story of a man named Saad bin Jubair, he was said to have married one of them and he does not know what they are. She was said to have lived with him for several years and had children with him. But one night she slept with him on the roof of the house, and the roof was overlooking a cemetery, and she heard a voice coming from the far side of the cemetery, it was like the voice of a women wailing, she felt gleeful by hearing these voices then looked at her husband and said, “Don’t you see the fire of Saalwas? Take your children, I recommend you treat them well”, then she flew and never came back to him!”.

Al-Jahiz also says: “A man named Abu Zayd said that a man of them married the Saalwa, and she lived with him for a while, and gave birth to children from him, until one night she saw lightning shines over the far land of Saalwas, therefore she flew and did not return.

It is said that there is a tribe called banu alsaalah “the sons of the Saalwa” is the product of that mixed marriage”.

Is Saalwa just a myth?

Its true form is of an animal nature

After we talked about what the ancient authors wrote about the Saalwa, we have to look at the origin of the myth. It is our right to wonder about all that rich folklore that people transmitted about Saalwa. Is it just a myth?

In fact, there is a stereotype painted by people about the Saalaw, I mean her true shape, they said she was animal-shaped, her body is covered with thick fur, her claws are long and sharp, and she probably has horns … These descriptions lead us to the conclusion that the true roots of the myth speak of an animal, a strange, deceitful animal killing people, and no one knew what this animal is, because of course people were familiar with the predators in the Arab countries.. As lion, leopard, wolf, etc. Therefore, the Saalwa must not have been a traditional animal or they would have known it.

It is known that most myths revolve around things that humans can’t explain, and in my opinion, the Saalwa was a mysterious creature that people could not determine.

But are there really mysterious creatures living in our Arab world?.

Why not? With all the evolution that has reached by humanity, scientists are still discovering from time to time new kinds of creatures, so what prevents the existence of such creatures in our Arab world in ancient times or now .. Don’t forget, dear reader that most of the Arab lands are deserts, and many of these deserts are still unexplored.

The appearance and disappearance of such creatures is not strange throughout history, for example, a horrible creature appeared in medieval France and killed many people, and they named it (Beast of Gévaudan). There is also the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, the snowman (Yeti) in Tibet and the big foot in America.

In the Arab world, monsters have also appeared from time to time and ancient historians have written about that. For example, Ibn Al-Jawzi (1126 – 1200 AD) wrote in his history book Al-Montazam about the events of year 304 AH (917 AD) saying:

“In the summer of this year: people frightened of a mysterious animal called Zubzab. They said that they see him at night on the roofs of their homes, and that he eats their children, and perhaps cut off the hand of the human while he is asleep or a woman’s breast.

People guarded the whole night, and beating the pots and trays in order to frighten him and make him flee. Baghdad has bounced from both sides, and people have made cages of palm fronds put it at night over their children to protect them. This situation continued until the Sultan’s men grabbed an animal which have piebald color, and resembled an otter, they said it was the Zubzab.

It was crucified at the top of the upper bridge on the eastern side and remained crucified until it died”.”

Al-Jawzi also wrote about the events of 337 AH (949 AD):

“One of the incidents this year is that people are frightened and are guarding their homes and streets, the reason for this were an animal that appeared at night on the roofs of their homes, sometimes they think he is a wolf, and sometimes they think of other animals and they stayed in this situation for many days”.

Egyptian Saalwa

A picture spread on the Internet about what is said to be an Egyptian “Salaawa”

“Saalwa” is an ancient mythological creature in Egyptian folklore that is said to have guarded Paranoiac temples and tombs and avenged those who violate its sanctity. It is said that some women have the ability to turn into “Saalwa ” at night to go to the graves and eat the bodies of the dead.

The interesting thing about the Egyptian “Saalwa” is that it has gone beyond the scope of pure myth to become a terrifying reality. This terrifying creature has appeared repeatedly over the past 20 years, killing and injuring many people, especially children, in some cities and villages of Egypt.

People described the creature as follows: “its appearance is like a wolf, a dog and a fox at the same time, characterized by speed, dark color, and big ears like foxes. Its front feet are shorter than its hind feet. And it’s characterized by intelligence and cunning and non-fear of humans and the high ability to hide and surveillance”.

Zoologists do not know what the “Saalwa” is, so it is probably a hybrid between a dog or a wolf and a jackal. But whatever the reality of the Egyptian Saalwa”, it proves that ancient myths may have real roots.


In fact, the myth of the Arabic “Saalwa” is very close to the myth of the European werewolf. The difference between them is that “Saalwa” is animal that can transform into a human being, whereas the werewolf is a human who can transform into a wolf. There is also a clear similarity between the myth of “Saalwa” and the vampire, both of whom love sucking human blood. On the whole, whatever the reality of the Saalwa, it is a legendary creature that has all the specifications of success in horror films if we have ever had a real Arab horror cinema.

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