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The Sabeel
City Blogs, English Audio

The Sabeel 

SUDAN ZAMAAN


A common fixture in Sudan to refresh yourself on a hot day

NOTE: take from article, Benefits of Zeer Water (arabic) in Articles, Editorials and Opinions

Some of the best water I have drunk, came from a set of rotund blackish water pots, locally called ‘zeer’, under the awning of a mosque in the neighborhood of Dieem. At any time of the day, the water was refreshing. Never hot, not ice cold, but just right. Other than for prayer, the mosque became my watering hole, stopping by daily on my way home from work to indulge.

A common fixture seen in front of houses, shops, and schools in Sudan is the sabeel, a water station which takes its name from the Arabic word denoting ‘way or path’. The sabeel is made up of a set of water pots called azeyaar (sing. zeer). The azeyaar are earthenware locally formed from a mixture of alluvium and clay found along the Nile then baked in underground ovens. The intended purpose of the sabeel  (these azeyaar), is to provide water for travelers or people out and about on hot days.

The shape, size, and colour of azeyaar, varies from place to place. In general they are rotund, pear-shaped urns tapering towards a large circular opening used for filling and retrieving water. They range from about a meter to a meter and a half in height and hold from about 30 to 50 litres of water. The colours are earthen in tone, ranging from dark brown to reddish ochre. Another common site is the forest-green algae that grow abundantly around its lower half. This growth, nourished by the “sweating” of the zeer, keeps the zeer moist and with a slight breeze, cools the water even on the hottest days.

The standing purpose of the sabeel is to provide refreshment on hot days, however there is another reason for the sabeel—blessings. Not only is it blessing for the person out on a hot day, but likewise a blessing for the one who has provided the service. Some have also been set out and maintained by family members seeking blessings for loved ones who have passed away. The familiar site of the zeer in Sudan is a tradition that has been passed down for generations. For the locals, it’s a neighbourly obligation and for the visitor to Sudan, a glimpse of the Sudanese personality. As in all societies over time, changes in traditions occur, but hopefully the tradition of the sabeel will be exempted.

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