The holy city of Mecca is the home to the famous Zam Zam water well. This well, in fact, is the reason for Mecca’s existence. The legend of the Zam Zam Well’s existence is really quite interesting. There are several versions of the story about the discovery of the Zam Zam Well. One version goes that centuries ago, around 2000 BC, the Prophet Ibrahim took his family to the area where Mecca stands today to leave them there. When his wife Hajira asked Ibrahim why he was leaving them there in this desert with no water, he told her that he had been instructed by God to do so. His wife was then fine with the decision and believed that God would provide for the family. One of her sons eventually got so thirsty, he began digging with his foot into the sandy soil. Suddenly water appeared in the hole and this source of water is called the Zam Zam Well.
Another version of the story varies a bit by telling that Hajira was seeking water for her infant who was dying of thirst and that she ran between the two hills of Marwah and Safa seven times in the sweltering heat in search of water. At this point God sent down the angel Gabriel. Gabriel dug a hole in the dry and dusty earth and suddenly there was water spewing forth from the ground. There are other little variations on the story as well. The name Zam Zam originates from the Arabic phrase “Zome Zome,” which means “stop flowing.” This is reportedly what Hajira kept repeating once the spring water began flowing and she was trying to contain it.
The discovery of this well brought people who then settled in the desolate area which was named Mecca. The Zam Zam Well is located just a few meters from the Kaaba, which is the place that all Muslims face five times daily when they pray. According to some legends, the well has never once gone dry to this day. However others believe that the well disappeared for a while because the controlling tribe of Mecca, the Jurham, had sinned grievously and that they had filled in the well with dirt out of spite when their tribe was driven out of Mecca. Muslim tradition says that Mohammed’s grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, later dreamed where the well was located, and he consequently rediscovered it.
The site of the well has undergone several transformations over the ensuing years, from being surrounded by stones to being covered with domes of tile, teak and marble. The mosque built to house the Kaaba throughout its history has been damaged by fire, restored, and remodeled. In the early 1900s, the most comprehensive restoration occurred under the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, when the Zam Zam housing was moved a bit further away to prevent possible damage when millions of pilgrims perform the ritual of circling around the Kaaba. Zam Zam water is available for free to those who visit the Holy Mosque in Mecca and is pumped in to the eastern reaches of the mosque in separate locations for both men and women pilgrims.
The story about Hajira and how the Zam Zam Well originated is remembered by all Muslims during their pilgrimmage to Mecca. Men run between the two hills of Safa and Marwah seven times just as Hajira did. Women walk the distance seven times. When they are done, they then drink from the Zam Zam Well.
The Prophet Mohammed alleged that the Zam Zam water had healing effects. It has also been reported that the Prophet used to carry the water with him, sprinkling it over the sick and having them drink it. This is why many Muslims believe that the water is miraculous and “divinely blessed.” It is said that Zam Zam water satisfies both hunger as well as thirst in addition to having medicinal value in curing illness. Indeed, some people claim to have been cured of illness after drinking Zam Zam water. I read reports that say scientists have conducted tests on Zam Zam water which have concluded that there is an overabundance of many minerals in the water such as fluoride, magnesium, calcium, iodide, sulphate and nitrate contents, which makes it more nutritive and provides healing effects such as reducing heartburn and quenching thirst. Many Muslims claim that Zam Zam water has no taste at all, but it definitely does have a taste to me. My favorite drink on earth is cool water. But personally, I don’t care for the taste of the Zam Zam water. Since it has a higher content of natural minerals in it, I think this is what gives it its flavor and has an aftertaste for me.
Millions of Muslim visitors from around the world visit Mecca each year during the Hajj. All Muslims, if they are able to, are required to make this pilgrimage at least once during their lifetime. Because of the world’s growing Muslim population and the ease of air travel, the Hajj continues to grow in size every year. Since one ritual that is followed by all pilgrims during the Hajj is to wash (ablution) before prayers and to drink later from the Zam Zam Well, plus the fact that many pilgrims like to take home water from the well to give to their relatives and friends, concern has arisen over whether the well can continue to supply enough water to meet the growing demand. There is now a Zam Zam Studies and Research Center in charge of keeping the water sanitized and abundant. Also, the Saudi government has prohibited Zam Zam from being exported and sold outside the country. Consequently, because there is such a zealous commericial demand for the water, fake Zam Zam has been distributed and sold in many countries.
The Zam Zam Well is a constant source of precious water in this arid desert holy city of Mecca. The water is also sold outside the mosque and distributed to the far reaches of the Kingdom. Most homes in the KSA are not without their supply of Zam Zam water.