Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A nice drop of Zamzam

Well, I said I might look into the reasons behind the throngs of smelly Pakistanis at King Khalid Airport last week carrying jerry cans of water with them on the plane...

Living in such a dry country my first impulse upon seeing water is to drink it, but if I'm honest with myself I concede that it would be a little O.T.T. to carry two gallons of the stuff with you. So, it's almost certainly not drinking water, and I know it's not for washing themselves (ask my nose), so what is it and why are they all taking it home?

It is water from the Zamzam well in Mecca. The water in this well is believed by Muslims to be blessed, and they claim it has healing properties. All these men we had to fight our way through to get checked-in for our flight to Abu Dhabi were on their way home from Umrrah: pilgrimage to Mecca. All Muslims are supposed to go on pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives. The official time to do this is called Hajj, which this year will take place in December (it happens 11 days earlier each year, just like Ramadan, because of the difference between the Islamic and Gregorian calendars). During Hajj, about four million Muslims undertake the journey to Mecca: Jeddah International Airport (the nearest) even has its own Hajj Terminal. However, Muslims are welcome to pilgrimage to Mecca at anytime, and when they do so outside of Hajj it is called Umrrah, so this crowd of Pakistani men were on their way home from Umrrah, clutching their cannisters of Zamzam water to give to family and friends on their return.

They say Zamzam water has healing properties: on this occasion I wish its cleaning properties had taken centre-stage!

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