The Holy Well of Zemzem

[Extracted from The Spectator, 10 SEPTEMBER 1881, Page 3.]


The Times of Friday contained a letter which, if Mahommedans read English or understood hygiene, would have a circulation of millions. The centre of the Mahommedan world is Mecca, and the centre of Mecca is the well Zemzem, the Holy Well into which the moon once fell,—and which communicates under the sea with the Holy Well Baroota in Kairouan. Every pilgrim who seeks the shrine visits the well, and either pours its water over his body or drinks it, or both, and departs purified. The water of the well is even sent abroad to Mahommedan Princes, who pay small sums for an annual supply, which, however, we believe, they do not drink, unless stricken with mortal disease. The British Consul-General at Jeddah has obtained a bottle of the water, and sent it to South Kensington to be analysed, and this is Dr. E. Frankland's report:

The water is "of the most abominable character," sewage, "seven times more concentrated than London sewage," and containing 579 grains of solid matter per gallon. If the Consul-General is certain of the identity of the water sent him, we need not to surprised that Mecca is the cholera-centre of Arabia, that the pilgrims diffuse cholera, or that in bad years not one pilgrim in three regains his home. The guardians of the well would, however, reject any suggestion for the purification of the well as blasphemous; and should the letter be read in Jeddah, the Consul-General's popularity will recede to zero.