'Well of Hell': Omani cave team discover what lurks in Yemen’s strange sinkhole

Explorers descended into the 30-metre hole in search of local legends

With nerves of steel, Mohammad Al Kindi descended through a 30-metre hole in the desert into the foreboding underground cave near Yemen's border with Oman.

Mohammad and a team of Omani cavers recently found out what exactly lay at the bottom of this geological structure known locally as the Well of Barhout or the Well of Hell in Al Mahra region, a mysterious place that has long been the subject of much mythology and folklore.

“Some say it is where apostates and non-believers are tortured after death," the geologist and owner of the Earth Sciences Consultancy Centre tells The National. "Others believe that their heads would be severed once they’re down there.

Quote
I was the last one to climb in and the last one to leave. I spent about six hours down there
Mohammad Al Kindi, cave explorer and geologist

What they found may have been spellbinding, but he says neither he nor his seven teammates felt the effects of any curse.

“They say that Makkah’s Zamzam water is the holiest and purest on earth and that the water from the Well of Hell is the most evil,” he says. “All we saw was pure freshwater down there. We even drank an entire bottle and nothing happened to us!"

Mohammad says he’s always had a passion for natural formations and cave exploration.

“I live in a mountainous area. I have been visiting caves since I was a child,” he says.

But his quest into the belly of the mythical chasm was unlike any other of his adventures. “I was the last one to climb in and the last one to leave. I spent about six hours down there,” he says.

Using surveying equipment and gas detectors, Mohammad and the team found the sinkhole was indeed possessed – by normal levels of oxygen and poison-free air – and he says there was a high number of snakes.

"They procreate when there are no predators to eat them,” he explains. “That's normal."

The most magical elements he saw were the cave pearls that shone through underground waterfalls.

“Cave pearls are concentric calcium carbonate deposits that form around nuclei under falling water. These rings are smoothed by the movement of water falling for thousands of years until they form beautiful pearl shapes,” he said.

With the sinkhole steeped in local folklore, many brave Yemenis and some scientific expeditions claim to have entered and returned, but Mohammad says he saw no indications of any human encroachment at the bottom.

“There were no footprints or other signs of disturbances,” he says. “None of the prior missions there have been documented so it’s unclear whether anyone had actually gone down there, although it’s difficult to be 100 per cent certain.”

Mohammad hopes that with his visit to the bottom of the Well of Hell, his findings can dispel some of the myths surrounding the cave and other similar sites.

"I believe that the Well of Hell, known as Barhout, is a legendary cave assigned to many caves in Yemen. Now that we have gone to Khasfat Foujit, the cave should not be called by any other name than the area it is in."

To make sure there is no demonic phenomenon at other similar sites, Mohammad now plans to visit the Hadramout region in Yemen to investigate whether a similar sinkhole could hold the secrets of the underworld.

“I have no doubt that the one in Hadramout will also be normal, and even small. But with the right conditions, we will go and find out," he says.

Updated: September 22nd 2021, 6:48 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS