The zir or maybe zeer (Arabic الزير) is a huge ceramic jar used in Jordan for holding water. I was looking on the internet for an image of a zir and couldn’t find one. The closest I could find was this description of how to put two pots together with sand between them for either filtering or cooling. But that’s not it. Here is a miniature zeer from a tourist shop in Wadi Rhum that I was using as a pencil holder until the foot broke off. Except for the size, it looks pretty much like the real article.
When I moved into my apartment in Jebel Weibdeh, there was one in the apartment that I cleaned up with bleach (paranoid much?) and used at first for cooling water, then later as a makeshift refrigerator. The ceramic pot is unglazed and quite porous. It is a bit pointy on the bottom and rests on a circular metal frame with three legs. Water slowly escapes through the sides of the ceramic and evaporates, cooling the contents of the pot. Sometimes water drips slowly from the bottom and forms a small pool under the zir.
You may see these in public where a lone soldier is guarding a building. A typical one might have a circular wooden cover and a glass on top for the guard to drink from. Here is my rendering of the zir in action:
I have come across a photo of Salt, the old provincial capital north of Amman, that shows two zeers by a watermelon stand and shows off an example of the city’s unique yellow architecture.