Zamzam Well
The Well of Zamzam is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram
Masjid al-Haram
Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām is the largest mosque in the world. Located in the city of Mecca, it surrounds the Kaaba, the place which Muslims worldwide turn towards while performing daily prayers and is Islam's holiest place...

 in Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, 20 m (65.6 ft) east of the Kaaba
The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The Qur'an states that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham, or Ibraheem, in Arabic, and his son Ishmael, or Ismaeel, as said in Arabic, after he had settled in Arabia. The building has a mosque...

, the holiest place in Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. According to Islamic belief, it is a miraculously-generated source of water from God
God in Islam
In Islamic theology, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer, and judge of the universe. Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular . God is unique and inherently One , all-merciful and omnipotent. According to the Islamic...

, which began thousands of years ago when Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

's (Ibrāhīm) infant son Ishmael
Ishmael is a figure in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, and was Abraham's first born child according to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Ishmael was born of Abraham's marriage to Sarah's handmaiden Hagar...

 (ʼIsmāʻīl) was thirsty and kept crying for water and was kicking at the ground when water gushed out. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj
The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so...

or Umrah
The Umrah or is a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year. In Arabic, Umrah means "to visit a populated place"...

pilgrimages, in order to drink its water.

Muslims consider the Zamzam well a contemporary miracle, never having gone dry despite the millions of liters of water consumed every year. The safety of consuming water from the well has recently been debated in light of a BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 study into Zamzam water's arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

 content, though Saudi authorities state that the levels are much lower than the maximum permitted by the WHO
Who may refer to:* Who , an English-language pronoun* who , a Unix command* Who?, one of the Five Ws in journalism- Art and entertainment :* Who? , a 1958 novel by Algis Budrys...


Origin of Zamzam

Islamic history
Muslim history
Muslim history is the history of Muslim people. In the history of Islam the followers of the religion of Islam have impacted political history, economic history, and military history...

 states that Zamzam well was revealed to Hagar
-People:* Hagar , handmaid of Sarah and mother of Abraham's son Ishmael* Hagar Finer, Israeli WIBF bantamweight champion* Albert Hagar, Canadian politician* Mandy Hagar, New Zealand children's author...

 (Hājar), the second wife of Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 and mother of Ishmael around the year 2000 BC. According to Islamic tradition, she was desperately seeking water for her infant son, but she could not find any , as Mecca is located in a hot dry valley with few sources of water. Muslim traditions say that Hagar ran seven times back and forth in the scorching heat between the two hills of Safa and Marwah
Al-Safa and Al-Marwah
Al-Safa and Al-Marwah are two small mountains now located in the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia between which Muslims travel back and forth seven times during the ritual pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah.-History:...

, looking for water. Getting thirstier by the second, her son, Ismael scraped the land with his feet, where suddenly water sprang out. There are other versions of the story involving God sending his angel
Angels are mythical beings often depicted as messengers of God in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles along with the Quran. The English word angel is derived from the Greek ἄγγελος, a translation of in the Hebrew Bible ; a similar term, ملائكة , is used in the Qur'an...

, Gabriel
In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel is an Archangel who typically serves as a messenger to humans from God.He first appears in the Book of Daniel, delivering explanations of Daniel's visions. In the Gospel of Luke Gabriel foretells the births of both John the Baptist and of Jesus...

Holy Spirit (Islam)
The Holy Spirit in Islam is mentioned several times in the Quran, and is interpreted by many muslims as referring to the angel Gabriel.-The Holy Spirit, al-Ruh al-Quds, in the Quran:...

, who kicked the ground with his heel and the water rose.

The name of the well comes from the phrase Zomë Zomë, meaning 'stop', a command repeated by Hagar during her attempt to contain the spring water.

According to Islamic tradition, Abraham rebuilt the Bait-ul-Allah ("House of God", cognate of the Hebrew-derived place name Bethel
Bethel was a border city described in the Hebrew Bible as being located between Benjamin and Ephraim...

) near the site of the well, a building which had been originally constructed by Adam
Adam is a figure in the Book of Genesis. According to the creation myth of Abrahamic religions, he is the first human. In the Genesis creation narratives, he was created by Yahweh-Elohim , and the first woman, Eve was formed from his rib...

 (Adem), and today is called the Kaaba, a building toward which all Muslims around the world face in prayer, five times each day. The Zamzam well is located approximately 20 m (65.6 ft) east of the Kaaba.


According to IslamOnline
Islamonline is a global Islamic website on the Internet providing services to Muslims and non-Muslims in several languages. Its motto is "credibility and distinction." Sunni Muslim scholar....

, the well originally had two cisterns in the first era, one for drinking and one for ablution
Ritual purification
Ritual purification is a feature of many religions. The aim of these rituals is to remove specifically defined uncleanliness prior to a particular type of activity, and especially prior to the worship of a deity...

. At that time, it was a simple well surrounded by a fence of stones. Then in the era of the Abbasid caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

Al-Mansur, Almanzor or Abu Ja'far Abdallah ibn Muhammad al-Mansur was the second Abbasid Caliph from 136 AH to 158 AH .-Biography:...

 771 AD (149 AH) a dome was built above the well, and it was tiled with marble. In 775 AD (153 AH
Islamic calendar
The Hijri calendar , also known as the Muslim calendar or Islamic calendar , is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 lunar months in a year of 354 or 355 days. It is used to date events in many Muslim countries , and used by Muslims everywhere to determine the proper day on which to celebrate Islamic...

), Al-Mahdi
Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Mahdi , was the third Abbasid Caliph who reigned from 158 AH to 169 AH . He succeeded his father, al-Mansur....

 rebuilt the well during his caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

, and built a dome of teak
Teak is the common name for the tropical hardwood tree species Tectona grandis and its wood products. Tectona grandis is native to south and southeast Asia, mainly India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Burma, but is naturalized and cultivated in many countries, including those in Africa and the...

 which was covered with mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

. One small dome covered the well, and a larger dome covered the room for the pilgrims. In 835 AD (213 AH) there was further restoration, and the dome was covered with marble during the caliphate of Al-Mu'tasim
Abu Ishaq 'Abbas al-Mu'tasim ibn Harun was an Abbasid caliph . He succeeded his half-brother al-Ma'mun...


In 1417 (795 AH), during the time of the Mamluk
A Mamluk was a soldier of slave origin, who were predominantly Cumans/Kipchaks The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior...

s, the mosque
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

 was damaged by fire, and required restoration. Further restoration occurred in 1430 (808 AH), and again in 1499 (877 AH) during the time of Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa'it Bay was the eighteenth Burji Mamluk Sultan of Egypt from 872-901 A.H. . He was Circassian by birth, and was purchased by the ninth sultan Barsbay before being freed by the eleventh sultan Jaqmaq...

, when the marble was replaced.

In modern times, the most extensive restoration took place to the dome during the era of the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Sultan Abdul Hamid II
Abdul Hamid II
His Imperial Majesty, The Sultan Abdülhamid II, Emperor of the Ottomans, Caliph of the Faithful was the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire...

 in 1915 (1333 AH). To facilitate crowd control, the building housing the Zamzam was moved away from its original location, to get it out of the way of the Tawaf
Tawaf is one of the Islamic rituals of pilgrimage. During the Hajj and Umrah, Muslims are to circumambulate the Kaaba seven times, in a counterclockwise direction...

, when millions of pilgrims would circumambulate
Circumambulation is the act of moving around a sacred object.Circumambulation of temples or deity images is an integral part of Hindu ritual. It is also practised in Buddhism. In Islam, circumambulation is performed around the Kaaba in Mecca, in a counter-clockwise direction...

 the Kaaba. The water of the well is now pumped to the eastern part of the mosque, where it was made available in separate locations for men and women.

Technical information

The Zamzam well was excavated by hand, and is about 30 m (98.4 ft) deep and 1.08 metre in diameter. It taps groundwater from the wadi
Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.-Variant names:...

Alluvium is loose, unconsolidated soil or sediments, eroded, deposited, and reshaped by water in some form in a non-marine setting. Alluvium is typically made up of a variety of materials, including fine particles of silt and clay and larger particles of sand and gravel...

 and some from the bedrock
In stratigraphy, bedrock is the native consolidated rock underlying the surface of a terrestrial planet, usually the Earth. Above the bedrock is usually an area of broken and weathered unconsolidated rock in the basal subsoil...

. Originally water from the well was drawn via ropes and buckets, but today the well itself is in a basement room where it can be seen behind glass panels (visitors are not allowed to enter). Electric pumps draw the water, which is available throughout the Masjid al-Haram via water fountains and dispensing containers near the Tawaf area.

Hydrogeology is the area of geology that deals with the distribution and movement of groundwater in the soil and rocks of the Earth's crust, . The term geohydrology is often used interchangeably...

, the well is in the Wadi Ibrahim (Valley of Abraham). The upper half of the well is in the sandy alluvium of the valley, lined with stone masonry except for the top 1 metres (3.3 ft) which has a concrete "collar". The lower half is in the bedrock. Between the alluvium and the bedrock is a 1/2 m section of permeable weathered rock, lined with stone, and it is this section that provides the main water entry into the well. Water in the well comes from absorbed rainfall in the Wadi Ibrahim, as well as run-off from the local hills. Since the area has become more and more settled, water from absorbed rainfall on the Wadi Ibrahim has decreased.

The Saudi Geological Survey
Saudi Geological Survey
The Saudi Geological Survey is the national geologic survey of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and was established as an independent entity attached to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources following a Council of Ministers Decision in 1999...

 has a "Zamzam Studies and Research Centre" which analyses the technical properties of the well in detail. Water levels were monitored by hydrograph
A hydrograph is a graph showing the rate of flow versus time past a specific point in a river, or other channel or conduit carrying flow...

, which in more recent times has changed to a digital monitoring system that tracks the water level, electric conductivity, pH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

, Eh
Reduction potential
Reduction potential is a measure of the tendency of a chemical species to acquire electrons and thereby be reduced. Reduction potential is measured in volts , or millivolts...

, and temperature. All of this information is made continuously available via the Internet. Other wells throughout the valley have also been established, some with digital recorders, to monitor the response of the local aquifer
An aquifer is a wet underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials from which groundwater can be usefully extracted using a water well. The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is called hydrogeology...


The water level is 3.23 m (10.6 ft) below the surface. A pumping test at 8000 L/s for more than a 24 hour period showed a drop in water level from 3.23 m (10.6 ft) below surface to 12.72 m (41.7 ft) and then to 13.39 m (43.9 ft), after which the water level stopped receding. When pumping stopped, the water level recovered to 3.9 m (12.8 ft) below surface only 11 minutes later. This data shows that the aquifer feeding the well seems to recharge from rock fractures in neighbouring mountains around Mecca.

Zamzam water has no colour or smell, but it has a distinct taste, and its pH is 7.9–8.0, indicating that it is alkaline to some extent and is similar to seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...


A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

Mass concentration as reported by researchers at King Saud University
King Saud University
King Saud University is a public university located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was founded in 1957 by King Saud bin Abdul Aziz as Riyadh University, as the first university in the kingdom not dedicated to religious subjects. The university was created to meet the shortage of skilled workers in...

  • Sodium
    Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal and is a member of the alkali metals; its only stable isotope is 23Na. It is an abundant element that exists in numerous minerals, most commonly as sodium chloride...

     133 mg/L
  • Calcium
    Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

     96 mg/L
  • Magnesium
    Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

     38.88 mg/L
  • Potassium
    Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

     43.3 mg/L
  • Bicarbonate
    In inorganic chemistry, bicarbonate is an intermediate form in the deprotonation of carbonic acid...

     195.4 mg/L
  • Chloride
    The chloride ion is formed when the element chlorine, a halogen, picks up one electron to form an anion Cl−. The salts of hydrochloric acid HCl contain chloride ions and can also be called chlorides. The chloride ion, and its salts such as sodium chloride, are very soluble in water...

     163.3 mg/L
  • Fluoride
    Fluoride is the anion F−, the reduced form of fluorine when as an ion and when bonded to another element. Both organofluorine compounds and inorganic fluorine containing compounds are called fluorides. Fluoride, like other halides, is a monovalent ion . Its compounds often have properties that are...

     0.72 mg/L
  • Nitrate
    The nitrate ion is a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO and a molecular mass of 62.0049 g/mol. It is the conjugate base of nitric acid, consisting of one central nitrogen atom surrounded by three identically-bonded oxygen atoms in a trigonal planar arrangement. The nitrate ion carries a...

     124.8 mg/L
  • Sulfate
    In inorganic chemistry, a sulfate is a salt of sulfuric acid.-Chemical properties:...

     124 mg/L
  • pH
    In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

  • Total dissolve alkalinity
    Alkalinity or AT measures the ability of a solution to neutralize acids to the equivalence point of carbonate or bicarbonate. The alkalinity is equal to the stoichiometric sum of the bases in solution...

     835 mg/L

Health risks and sale

In May 2011, a BBC London
BBC London
BBC London is the BBC English Region producing local radio, television, teletext and online services in London and parts of the surrounding area. Its output includes the daily BBC London News and the weekly Politics Show on television, the BBC London 94.9 radio station and local coverage of the...

 investigation found that Zamzam water marketed as having been taken from the Zamzam Well contained high levels of nitrate
The nitrate ion is a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO and a molecular mass of 62.0049 g/mol. It is the conjugate base of nitric acid, consisting of one central nitrogen atom surrounded by three identically-bonded oxygen atoms in a trigonal planar arrangement. The nitrate ion carries a...

, potentially harmful bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

, and arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

 at levels three times the legal limit in the UK. Arsenic is a carcinogen
A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes...

, raising concerns that Muslims who regularly consume commercial zamzam in large quantities may be exposed to higher risks of cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

. The British Food Standards Agency
Food Standards Agency
The Food Standards Agency is a non-ministerial government department of the Government of the United Kingdom. It is responsible for protecting public health in relation to food throughout the United Kingdom and is led by a board appointed to act in the public interest...

 has in the past issued warnings about water claiming to be Zamzam containing dangerous levels of arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

; such sales have also been reported in the UAE, where it is illegal to sell Zamzam. The Saudi government has prohibited the commercial export of Zamzam from the kingdom. However, there is a strong commercial demand for Zamzam which has resulted in continued commercial distribution of water alleged to be Zamzam.

The BBC's findings have drawn mixed reactions from the Muslim community. Environmental health officer Dr Yunes Ramadan Teinaz told the British broadcaster about commercially marketed Zamzam that, "People see this water as a holy water. They find it difficult to accept that it is contaminated, but the authorities in Saudi Arabia or in the U.K. must take action." The Saudi authorities have stated that water from the well was tested by the Group Laboratories of CARSO-LSEHL in Lyon, licensed by the French Ministry of Health for the testing of drinking water. According to reports of these results, the level of arsenic in Zamzam water taken at its source is much lower than the maximum amount permitted by the World Health Organization
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

. The Saudi authorities have thus said that the water is fit for human consumption. Zuhair Nawab, president of the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), has claimed that Zamzam is tested on a daily basis, in a process involving the taking of three samples from the well. These are said to be examined in the King Abdullah Zamzam Water Distribution Center in Mecca, which is equipped with advanced facilities.

External links

  • Careem, S. H. A. Provides a brief history of the well and some information on the alleged health benefits of Zamzam water.
  • Moin Uddin Ahmed A unique and first hand account of the well by a person who got the opportunity to actually step inside it and gather scientific details.

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