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.


Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
Updated 13 sec ago

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
  • The pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards

MAKKAH: Residents of Makkah benefit financially during the Hajj as millions of people from all over the world converge on the holy city to perform the annual pilgrimage.  

But the pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards.  

Elaf Al-Mashaer, a local five-star hotel, is all set to welcome over 20,000 pilgrims this year, and the team has prepared the place to be as comfortable as possible to ensure a smooth stay for guests.

“We must know the number of guests who will stay in the hotel and their nationalities so that we can provide them with what they need,” hotel owner Abdulaziz Al-Sharbeeni told Arab News.

The 304-room establishment has several restaurants to cater to guests’ palates. “Each nationality has its own culture or a certain way of eating. We have Indian, Pakistani, East Asian, and Arabic restaurants.”

It has also made modifications and preparations to make the rooms and suites accessible to people with disabilities.

“Some pilgrims come alone, so we give them a room on request, while others come with their families, so we give them a suite,” Al-Sharbeeni said. “There is a target we must achieve during the Hajj season as a facility, and the most important seasons in the year to achieve these financial goals are the Ramadan and Hajj seasons.”

The Hajj season attracts a large and diverse crowd, and everyone who visits Makkah enjoys shopping for gifts. They also use taxis, hospitals, restaurants, and other services and amenities, providing locals with many economic opportunities.

“I sell gold in the local market, and Hajj season is considered our opportunity to reach the target. So I’m more than happy that Hajj is back because we miss the pilgrims and we love interacting with them and welcoming them,” said Ahmed Al-Suliman.

Al-Suliman said there were more opportunities for work during the Hajj as significant manpower was required to serve, manage, and help with the influx of pilgrims.

“The people of Makkah, in particular, want to take advantage of the Hajj season. Young and old are working this season, and even if someone sells a bottle of water for SR1 ($0.27), he will earn a lot of money. You can apply for seasonal field jobs through the website of the Ministry of Hajj and the official platforms.”


Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
Updated 1 min 20 sec ago

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
  • Guests will be assigned incognito to help evaluate Hajj services according to a pre-studied scientific methodology

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a performance initiative aimed at measuring pilgrims’ satisfaction at service provision during this year’s Hajj season.

Assistant deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Hesham Saeed, signed a joint cooperation agreement with acting secretary-general of the coordination council, Dr. Abdullah Al-Muwaihi, in relation to the program.

Al-Muwaihi said the monitoring scheme would involve measuring quality-of-service performance and beneficiary satisfaction, while also including an incognito guest program, all designed to improve and enrich worshippers’ spiritual experience.

Under the incognito initiative, Saeed said a designated guest would, “serve as a pilgrim under mission, who lives the full experience of Hajj, starting from the country of the pilgrim, passing through the holy sites, and performing the rituals until they return to their country.

“The assigned incognito guest will be living all the details, seeing what contact points they pass through, and will give an evaluation according to a pre-studied scientific methodology regarding the measurement criteria,” he added.

 

 

 


A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
Updated 13 min 3 sec ago

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
  • Pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure

JEDDAH: A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, in line with the quotas allocated to each country and following recommendations from the Saudi Ministry of Health.

The Hajj was limited to 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents from the Kingdom in 2021 to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of pilgrims and others.

But, following Saudi Arabia's successful implementation of precautionary measures for Hajj and Umrah seasons during the pandemic, pilgrim capacity has been raised to 1 million.

This year's Hajj is for people aged 65 and under who must comply with the requirement to complete a COVID-19 vaccination program.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah tweeted that pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure for Saudi Arabia.

It said the shots required for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia included one for meningitis for people who had not been vaccinated in the past five years. They are also required to get the flu vaccine. Local pilgrims must take these vaccinations at least 10 days before going to the Hajj.

Figures from the General Authority of Statistics showed that, during the pandemic's peak in 2020, the number of pilgrims plummeted to just 1,000. The decision to restrict capacity was based on risk assessment and public health and safety concerns.  

There were almost 2.5 million pilgrims at the Hajj in 2019, and 1.9 million were from overseas.

The highest number of local and foreign Hajj pilgrims in the past decade was in 2012 when nearly 3.2 million people performed the annual pilgrimage. The lowest was 1.9 million in 2016.


Arafat sermon to be translated into 14 languages

Arafat sermon to be translated into 14 languages
Updated 28 min 37 sec ago

Arafat sermon to be translated into 14 languages

Arafat sermon to be translated into 14 languages
  • 200m people globally expected to hear message of moderation, tolerance

MAKKAH: Live translation of the Arafat Day sermon, one of the most important events on the Islamic calendar, has been expanded to include 14 languages as Saudi Arabia’s leadership seeks to convey a message of moderation and tolerance to the widest possible audience.

Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said that the Kingdom’s leadership is offering unlimited support to the development of the Prophet’s Mosque and Grand Mosque’s services.

As the live translation of the Arafat sermon enters its fifth year, the project has been expanded to include 14 languages, he said.

A media tour of the live translation site at Al-Nimra Mosque on Thursday was followed by a media briefing for the project at the presidency’s headquarters.

During the meeting, Al-Sudais said that the leadership is keen to convey Islam’s message of moderation and tolerance to the world, using modern technology to serve pilgrims and visitors.

Live translation of the Arafat Day sermon is a wide-ranging project for the world, and particularly for visitors to the holy sites, enabling non-Arabic speakers to listen in their native language, he said.

At that same location, the Prophet Muhammad made his declaration of human rights, the teachings of Islam and women’s rights, and adherence by the Sunnah.

The translation benefitted 1 million people in its first year, 11 million in its second, 50 million in its third, 100 million in its fourth and will reach 200 million people around the world in 2022, he added.

He said that the sermon was initially translated into two languages. This was increased to five and, later, 10 languages.

The leadership later approved translations in English, French, Malay, Urdu, Persian, Russian, Chinese, Bengali, Turkish and Hausa, with Spanish, Indian, Swahili and Tamil added to the list this year.

Al-Sudais said that the Saudi leadership supervised the advancement of the international live translation project to satisfy people of faith, fairness and wisdom around the world, adding that the project takes a stand against violence, extremism and terrorism.

King Salman emphasizes the importance of caring for pilgrims, and Saudi Arabia will always take pride in pursuing this mission with the highest efficiency, Al-Sudais said.

With this year’s Hajj season the largest since the coronavirus pandemic, the Kingdom will also ensure the well-being of pilgrims, allowing them to perform rituals with comfort and ease, he said.

Al-Sudais added that the translation project aims to convey a message of righteousness, justice, tolerance and moderate Islam to the world.

Along with human rights and the teachings of Islam, the Prophet affirmed the elimination of racism and sectarianism, he said.


Deal signed to reduce food waste in Saudi Arabia

Deal signed to reduce food waste in Saudi Arabia
Updated 38 min 12 sec ago

Deal signed to reduce food waste in Saudi Arabia

Deal signed to reduce food waste in Saudi Arabia
  • The “Negaderha” project by Savola plans to initiate campaigns targeting households in the Kingdom

RIYADH: The National Transformation Program, one of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiatives, recently signed an agreement with the Saudi Grains Organization and the Savola World Foundation to minimize food waste in the Kingdom.

The “Negaderha” project by Savola plans to initiate campaigns targeting households in the Kingdom as part of the deal.

The project has already distributed more than 1 million food containers to 143,000 households to combat food waste.

The NTP and SAGO plan to empower nonprofit organizations and ensure food security through making businesses more sustainable, encouraging volunteering, and limiting food waste.

The Savola World Foundation was established in 2019 under the supervision of the Ministry of Human Resource and Social Development. It is a nonprofit organization focused on social development and preserving the environment.

The NTP was founded in 2016, and seeks to establish the infrastructure and conditions that will allow the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to implement the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

This will be done by reforming government operations, supporting digital transformation, promoting private sector development, forming economic partnerships, advancing social development, and ensuring the sustainability of key resources.