How Saudi authorities overseeing the holy Zamzam well have moved with the times

Special How Saudi authorities overseeing the holy Zamzam well have moved with the times
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Updated 07 April 2022

How Saudi authorities overseeing the holy Zamzam well have moved with the times

An employee at the Grand Mosque in Makkah hands out bottles of Zamzam water before iftar during Ramadan. (File/SPA)
  • Historians and geologists agree the well, located near the Kaaba, is at least 4,000 years old
  • Modern technology is being used to ensure the water is both safe for human consumption and continues to flow

LONDON: Zamzam water, drawn from the well beneath the Grand Mosque in Makkah, is at the very heart of the ancient beliefs that underpin the Islamic faith.

Yet in the 21st century, science and technology have been recruited to ensure that the holy water is both safe for human consumption and continues to flow to meet the needs of the millions of pilgrims who visit the Two Holy Mosques every year.

Historians and geologists agree that the Zamzam well, located just 20 meters to the east of the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, may be at least 4,000 years old.

Muslims believe it was built over the spring that gushed forth miraculously to relieve the suffering of Hajar and Ismael, the wife and infant son of the Prophet Ibrahim, who had been left alone in the desert at Allah’s command.

The 9th-century Sahih Al-Bukhari, regarded as the most authoritative of the collections of hadith recording the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, relates how Hajar, searching desperately for water, ran seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa before the angel Jibril appeared and caused water to flow from the barren ground.




Zamzam dispensing containers can be seen at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. (File/SPA)

According to the Saudi Geological Survey’s Zamzam Studies and Research Center, the name Zamzam “originates from the phrase Zome Zome, meaning ‘stop flowing,’ a command repeated by Hajar during her attempt to contain the spring water.”

Over time, the area around the well became a resting place for caravans, growing eventually into the city of Makkah, which in 570 CE became the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad.

At some point during the Ottoman era, the well was enclosed within a building. Over the centuries this underwent numerous alterations until it was finally demolished in 1964, when the Mataf had to be expanded to cater safely for the ever increasing number of pilgrims. The well was covered over and its opening repositioned in a basement 2.5 meters below the surface.

Within living memory, water was drawn from the well as it always had been — hauled to the surface in a bucket on the end of a rope — but today electric pumps can draw up to 18.5 liters per second. The well’s old mouthpiece, complete with pulley and bucket, can be seen in the Exhibition of The Two Holy Mosques Architecture in Makkah.

Zamzam water originates in the aquifer below Makkah — layers of alluvium (sand and gravel) above water-bearing rocks that absorb rainfall and runoff from the hills around the city.

Monitoring the level of the water in the well and the surrounding aquifer is the responsibility of the Saudi Geological Survey’s Zamzam Studies and Research Center and, despite the great seasonal variation in rainfall, and the ever growing number of pilgrims, the well has never run dry.




Five liter bottles of Zamzam water are prepared at the King Abdullah Zamzam Water Distribution Center in Makkah. (@ReasahAlharmain)

In 2013, the opening of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Zamzam Water Project (KPZW), built at a cost of SR700 million ($187 million), revolutionized the way water from the well was extracted, monitored, treated and distributed.

The water is pumped through underground stainless steel pipes to the KPZW plant at Kudai, five kilometers south of the Grand Mosque. Here, it is purified and sterilized, using filters and ultraviolet light, and the entire operation is controlled and monitored in a high-tech central control room.

After treatment, the water is transferred to one of two storage reservoirs. The first, at Kudai, has a capacity of 10,000 cubic meters and supplies water through pipes to drinking fountains in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

From Kudai, a fleet of tanker trucks transports up to 400,000 liters a day to the King Abdulaziz Sabeel Reservoir in Madinah, which has a capacity of 16,000 cubic meters and supplies water to the Prophet’s Mosque.

Ensuring Zamzam water meets the highest international standards for drinking water is the responsibility of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque. Under its direction, 100 random samples are taken every day and tested for microbiological and chemical purity in a laboratory within the Grand Mosque.

Decoder

Zamzam Water

Drawn from the well beneath the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Zamzam water is at the very heart of the ancient beliefs that underpin the Islamic faith. Historians and geologists agree that the Zamzam well, located just 20 meters to the east of the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, may be at least 4,000 years old.

FASTFACTS

Fast Fact

Within living memory, water was drawn from Makkah's Zamzam well as it always had been — hauled to the surface in a bucket on the end of a rope — but today electric pumps can draw up to 18.5 liters per second.


Uzbekistan president meets with Organization of Islamic Cooperation head

Uzbekistan president meets with Organization of Islamic Cooperation head
Updated 18 August 2022

Uzbekistan president meets with Organization of Islamic Cooperation head

Uzbekistan president meets with Organization of Islamic Cooperation head
  • Officials discussed issues of interest, including supporting peace and security in the region and the world

RIYADH: The president of Uzbekistan met with the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation during an official trip to the Kingdom on Thursday.

During the meeting, Shavkat Mirziyoyev praised Hissein Brahim Taha for leading the OIC’s efforts to promote joint Islamic action and consolidate the spirit of Islamic solidarity.

The president stressed that the organization receives special attention from his country’s government which is looking forward to strengthening cooperation with the OIC.

Taha expressed his appreciation for Uzbekistan’s role in the OIC and its efforts to support the activities of the organization and promote joint Islamic action through various initiatives.

He stressed the OIC’s keenness to enhance cooperation with Uzbekistan in all areas of common interest.

The two officials also discussed issues of common interest, including supporting peace and security in the region and the world and taking care of the interests of the organization and its member states.


Saudi beauty brands champion sustainable, cruelty-free values

Saudi beauty brands champion sustainable, cruelty-free values
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi beauty brands champion sustainable, cruelty-free values

Saudi beauty brands champion sustainable, cruelty-free values
  • Muzon Ashgar, founder and manager of Saudi brand MZN Bodycare, put together her own recipes for natural skincare products and packaged them herself
  • Managing partner Mama’s Alchemy Dina Horanieh: We wanted to offer vegan options in the bodycare category in Saudi and the region, as there are very few brands that cater to the cause

RIYADH: Muzon Ashgar, founder and manager of Saudi brand MZN Bodycare, has always had an interest in natural skincare products, which she sourced from the US.

But after throwing a recreational “spa party” for friends a few years ago, she realized there was no need to look abroad to be ethically conscious.

Ashgar put together her own recipes for natural skincare products and packaged them herself. She went from giving the products away as gifts at her at-home spa to selling at local markets and events, eventually establishing her own company.

Now her cruelty-free and sustainable products can be found at major pharmacy chains, premium retailers, and spas across Saudi Arabia.

“We are impressed that most of our customers actually care about MZN being a sustainable brand. There is a remarkable awareness within our community of the benefits of buying sustainable local brands,” Ashgar told Arab News.

But this awareness was not always apparent, and is nonexistent in some communities.

A report by business consultancy Mordor Intelligence found that the major players in the Saudi beauty industry are non-cruelty-free firms, including Beiersdorf AG (parent company to brands such as Nivea and Labello) and Estee Lauder.

When a brand is not cruelty free, the company either conducts individual testing on animals itself, through their supplier, or through a third party.

Ranked top in the huge global market is Procter & Gamble, which holds brands such as Herbal Essences, Pantene, Olay and SK-II. The consumer giant recently announced its commitment to #BeCrueltyFree throughout its 19 companies, highlighting moves by the industry to become more sustainable.

Coming in third is Avon, a brand that is completely cruelty free. While Estee Lauder is not, some of the brands in its portfolio, including Smashbox and Too Faced, both popular with Saudi consumers, have cruelty-free certification by the US-based animal rights group PETA.

The issue becomes complicated because some brands cannot fully develop a cruelty-free approach because they sell products in countries that require animal testing by law, such as China. Pulling their supply from such countries would result in a huge revenue loss.

However, Saudi Arabia does not insist on animal testing for skincare and beauty products. This creates an easy market for local sustainable and vegan cosmetics to step up and answer the demand for those items.

Saudi environmentalist Zahra Alqatari told Arab News that there is only limited awareness of sustainability as an issue in the Kingdom.

“That makes demand for cruelty-free and sustainable beauty products low. As a result, the beauty industry continues to produce products that harm us, animals and the environment.” 

However, this is changing as local brands, such as MZN Bodycare, champion natural, vegan and cruelty-free products for the everyday consumer.

The brand, established in 2015, believes in using local plants to create environmentally friendly products.

“Our region is full of plantations that have amazing benefits like the moringa, olive oils, rose and lavender essential oils, and date seed powder and oils. We found through published research that those oils are very high in antioxidants and vitamins which are beneficial to the skin,” Ashgar told Arab News.

The company has seen a growing interest among Saudis in developing sustainable and environmentally friendly living habits.

“We actually had some customers ask for a ‘return packaging’ program from us, where we take back the used packaging and refill it for them. Some call us to verify the source of our raw materials and that we are actually a cruelty-free brand,” said Ashgar.

Another cruelty-free brand, Mama’s Alchemy, is based on veganism as a core value and motivator.

“We wanted to offer vegan options in the bodycare category in Saudi and the region, as there are very few brands that cater to the cause. We believe veganism plays a vital role in keeping our planet clean and reducing waste,” Dina Horanieh, the firm’s managing partner, told Arab News.

The brand founders went on the hunt for vegan body products for their personal use, but were unable to find any — so they made their own. Mama’s Alchemy caters not only to vegan consumers, but also anyone looking for clean and sustainable body products.

 “The response (from the Saudi public) has been heartwarming. We hope to see more local suppliers offering sustainable options. We are continuously working to offer more vegan and sustainable products,” said Horanieh.


Rescue team saves life of man lost in mountains

Rescue team saves life of man lost in mountains
Updated 18 August 2022

Rescue team saves life of man lost in mountains

Rescue team saves life of man lost in mountains
  • Family alerted police and volunteers to the plight of the missing Sudanese man, who was located just in time
  • The man was located by the Wassem Volunteer Team, which has specially-equipped cars and gliders for use in the Wadi Al-Dawasir area

RIYADH: A Sudanese man lost in the mountains near the town of Al-Khasra, 320 kilometers southwest of Riyadh, has been rescued by the Wassem Volunteer Team.

The team, which has specially-equipped cars and gliders for use in the Wadi Al-Dawasir area, launched a large search for the missing Sudanese, managing to find and rescue him before he succumbed to heat exhaustion or dehydration.

“We were contacted about the missing man by his family, who provided us with an official letter from the police, and we headed to the site. Thank God, within an hour, we found the man, who was in (a) bad condition, and he was rescued and taken to safety,” Abu Abbas, a member of the team, told Arab News.

“We can consider this a good day, because (in) some cases (people) are found dead, like (a case we had) yesterday.”

The Sudanese man was rescued by the Wassem Volunteer Team.

The story and videos of the search and rescue were shared by people on social media and through mainstream news outlets, prompting praise for the volunteers.

Abbas advised people who want to go to the mountains or desert to download navigation apps on smart devices that operate outside mobile networks via satellites before travelling.

The Wassem Volunteer Team uses gliders.

“Prior to any outing, especially one that takes place outside of the (mobile) network, the person needs to let his family know where he is going and how long he will be in the desert. Then he checks his vehicle and everything he needs. By extending the number of days as a precaution, he must also bring food and water for a longer period of time than he will be staying.”

The team of volunteers was established two years ago, and so far more than 120 missing or stranded people have been rescued with their help and the help of other volunteers in the area.


Ksrelief chief meets Omani former conjoined twins 15 years after their separation

Ksrelief chief meets Omani former conjoined twins 15 years after their separation
Updated 18 August 2022

Ksrelief chief meets Omani former conjoined twins 15 years after their separation

Ksrelief chief meets Omani former conjoined twins 15 years after their separation
  • Al-Rabeeah met with Safa and Marwa Muhammad bin Nasser Al-Jardani and their parents in Riyadh
  • The twins were successfully separated 15 years ago

RIYADH: The supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center received on Wednesday a set of Omani former conjoined twins whom he operated on in 2007.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah met with Safa and Marwa Muhammad bin Nasser Al-Jardani and their parents at the KSrelief headquarters in Riyadh.

The twins underwent successful surgery to separate adhesions in their skulls, brain membranes, and intervening veins at King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh fifteen years ago.

Al-Rabeeah said Saudi Arabia’s program to separate conjoined twins enjoys a high international status that would not be possible without the support of the Kingdom’s leadership.

The supervisor general of Ksrelief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah talks to Omani former conjoined twins Safa and Marwa and their father in Riyadh. (SPA)

He added that the Kingdom has become specialized in performing complex surgical operations due to its advanced human and technical capabilities that make it a desired destination for anyone who requires treatment, whether from inside or outside Saudi Arabia.

He noted that the program embodies the humanity of the Kingdom, which transcends continents, borders and races to heal wounds and relieve human suffering.

The latest beneficiaries of the program are Yemeni twin girls Mawaddah and Rahma who were born conjoined at the lower chest and abdomen.

The baby girls from Aden were successfully separated in July.

The parents of the Omani twins expressed their gratitude to the Kingdom for facilitating the necessary efforts to separate and treat their daughters, adding that the kind gesture had had a great impact on their lives.


Saudi Heritage Commission to survey Red Sea for archeological finds

Saudi Heritage Commission to survey Red Sea for archeological finds
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi Heritage Commission to survey Red Sea for archeological finds

Saudi Heritage Commission to survey Red Sea for archeological finds

JEDDAH: The Saudi Heritage Commission has announced that it will implement plans to survey and uncover buried heritage in the Red Sea in collaboration with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the King Abdulaziz University and the University of Naples in Italy.
The commission said that plans will include surveying the Red Sea waters, from Umluj to Ras Al-Sheikh Hamid, in search for archeological findings, a project that had initially begun on July 13 and will continue to Sept. 5.
The project has thus far monitored more than 25 specific locations along the survey path including the Ras Al-Sheikh Hamid, Duba, Al-Wajh and Umluj areas using sonars. The devices will retrieve underwater and mosaic maps as well as high-quality photographs of the areas.
Saudi Heritage Commission CEO Dr. Jasir Al-Herbish said that the announcement is in line with the commission’s policy to notify media agencies, the general public and those interested in archeology of plans and efforts made in collaboration with scientific institutions and international organizations to discover these historical sites.
Its goal with this initiative is to develop the field of archeological diving and share the results of the historical site surveys in order to educate the public about areas in the Red Sea that are rich with cultural heritage — and just as essential as archeological findings on dry land.
Al-Herbish highlighted the efforts that are already in progress, such as a specialized center for the protection of underwater cultural heritage in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.
He stressed that the waters of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf are still incubating many secrets about the Kingdom’s cultural heritage, and the center hopes it will contribute to discovering them.
Vice President and Senior Associate of KAUST Dr. Najah Ashry said: “We at KAUST Basic Laboratories are exploring the secrets of the Red Sea using advanced marine technologies and building advanced capabilities with our partners,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The Umluj shipwreck area was previously surveyed in a collaborative effort by the commission and an Italian team from the University of Naples in 2015 and 2016, which determined that the wreck dates back over 100 years.
Some of the survey findings included a mound of pottery next to the wreck, hundreds of high-quality Chinese porcelain pieces, a coconut shell and various metals.