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.

zeer in Salt
closeup of zeer in Salt

3 Responses to “Zir”

  1. canehan Says:

    Somewhere I posted about similar earthenware pots in Thailand serving to purify water – senior moment, can’t remember where.

    Glad to see you back in action, the Aussie port will have you dancing any day now …

  2. Nijma Says:

    Yeah, it’s here. That’s what got me chasing after the bedouin pots, but it has taken me a while to get my comments turned on again after being away.

    I think the body develops an immunity to a lot of the stuff found in water. That’s why they say to brush your teeth with it when you first move. I bought bottled water when I first moved to Jordan–was quite sick and lost 30 or 40 lbs in the first few months–but eventually ended up just drinking the water like everyone else. There is a Jordanian saying that if you eat a people’s bread with them (or maybe it’s salt), after 40 days you become one of them. That corresponds nicely to the 6 weeks they say it takes to develop immunity.

    I found a photo of the real thing after all:

    zeer in Salt
    closeup of zeer in Salt

  3. canehan Says:

    The only time I got ill in six months in Jordan was after a meal in the posh top-floor restaurant of the Intercontinental ! I can’t remember if we drank tap water straight, but we did live in an apartment for some months so it is likely. Our son, then aged 2-1/2, disdained the Interconty’s hamburgers and much prefered Arab food from a nearby restaurant – Matouk IIRC.

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