In case 2020 and 2021 haven’t thrown enough at you to wonder what’s taking Elon Musk so long to build his ship to Mars, the country of Yemen would like to introduce you to its Well of Hell, which has been appearing on many media sites lately like it’s a hot tourist attracting in the middle of one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Why would anyone who has survived the year of COVID and strange elections want to peer into a Well of Hell? To feel better about themselves or their plight? Let’s find out.
“It’s very deep—we’ve never reached the bottom of this well, as there’s little oxygen and no ventilation. We have gone to visit the area and entered the well, reaching more than 50-60 meters down into it. We noticed strange things inside. We also smelled something strange… It’s a mysterious situation.”
If that sounds like Disneyland for demons, you’re close – Yemeni folklore describes the Well of Hell, also known as the Well of Barhout, as a prison for demons. If so, it’s located in an appropriate place – Hadhramaut in eastern Yemen is believed to mean “death has come” in ancient Arabic. That could be from the nickname of ‘Amar ibn Qaḥṭān, a legendary invader who left death in his wake, or from the difficult time the ancient Hadhrami people had living there. Salah Babhair, the director-general of Mahra’s geological survey and mineral resources authority, tries to take a more scientific approach to explaining why the Well of Hell smells like — well, like hell – but even he falls back to folklore, saying it’s “millions and millions” of years old.
What can tourists brave enough to visit Yemen do at the Well of Barhout? Not much. It’s 30 meters (100 feet) wide and believed to be up to 250 meters (820 feet) deep, but locals keep others away with stories of people and animals getting too close and being sucked it – never to be seen again. Food for the imprisoned demons?
“Another legend says the hole dates back to B.C and it emerged due to a falling star. But others suggest that one of Yemen’s old kings used a demon to make the hole where he laid all his fortune there, so when he dies; demons will protect his possessions. Famous stories on the well of hell are also very common. The first is that a woman left her baby near it when she came back she didn’t find her child; the second story narrated that one of the scientists entered the well to explore it then loud screams were heard. The scientist was pulled out; however his bottom half was cut off.”
Albawaba.com recounts (with many pictures) some of the legends surrounding the Well of Hell. Some locals would prefer the government come in and put a cover on it, but Yemeni officials have other more pressing matters on their hand … like the human demons of war. According to Kabbos.com, there is a Hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammad: “The best water on the face of the earth, Zamzam water, and the worst water on the face of the earth, water in a valley in Hadramout named Barhout its water is black and stinky.” However, viewed at the right angle, it’s said that one can see vegetation growing in the well. It concludes with the experience of Ammar Hashem Mohammed Osman, who has a possible answer for the smell of the Well of Hell.
“There was an ordinary well dug to provide the military site with water. But when the pump started working for the first time to withdraw the water, a black liquid came out of the well like tar. The smell was unbearable. Bad smell like rotten eggs. I was nauseated by the severity of the smell. . No one could use the water for at least 12 hours, as the odor subsided, and black matter was deposited on the pond walls where water was collected. Nevertheless, I swear that I was unable to sleep from the smell of my clothes and my body odor after washing with that water. They told us that the water contains sulfur and other impurities that give it color and smell. It is certain that this well is connected to the same source that feeds the water of Barhout well and contains the same characteristics. And it is actually: (the worst water on earth).”
Sulphur or demons? Sounds like a reason for an archeological/folkloric road trip to Yemen’s Well of Hell. If you’re worried about losing your bottom half, pack some suspenders.