Sheikh al-Haridi was a seventeenth century CE renowned holy man of Upper Egypt, who was believed to have returned after his death in the form of a large snake. People were uncertain whether al-Haridi was originally a good jinni who took the form first of a man and later of a snake, or whether he was a genuine human being who was miraculously transformed by Allah into a snake after his death. The only thing locals could be certain of was that the serpent – which took up residence in a cleft in the rocks near the holy man’s small domed shrine or kubbah on the east bank of the Nile near Tahta – was indeed al-Haridi himself.

During his lifetime, al-Haridi was known as a famous healer, and miraculous cures were said to be effected in his name even after his death and his transformation into a snake. Al-Haridi’s baraka, or blessing, was especially invoked in cases of barrenness or foolishness. According to one local Muslim legend, he was once a jinni salih, a pious jinni, who met the Prophet Muhammad and sought his intercession to enter Jannah. Local Coptic Christians did not dispute the miracles, but they maintained that al-Haridi was actually Asmodeus (Sakhr), the jinni king.

Al-Haridi was reported by some travelers in past centuries to be Turkish in origin. His shrine is still considered locally to be an important pilgrimage place. Tradition certainly seems to be alive, and the snake still holds a considerable place in folk beliefs and customs of the region.

A wadi near Nazlet El Haridi contains the tomb of the Sheikh al-Haridi and his son Hassan from the Old Kingdom.

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