Monday, August 28, 2006

traditional Arab bathrooms/toilets and such.....

After reading Leilouta's blog about her husband using one of the toilets in Tunisia for the first time (the ones on the ground), it got me to thinking about the first time I used one of these toilets. I'll never forget it.

I was at a birthday party on the beach w/ my husband and his friends. Everything was going fine until I had to make a potty break, so I walked to the nearest little girl's room w/ the only other girl at the party. When we get there, it's pretty dark inside but the moon is shining, so you can see your surroundings. I open the first stall and the toilet is on the ground. I think "ok" and I move to the next stall. Same thing. So I move to the last stall and, again, the toilet is sitting on the ground. Now remember, I had NEVER seen anything like this. I was visiting Bahrain for the first time and no one had ever told me about toilets on the ground. I was a bit surprised, to say the least.

Well, coming from a background of camping out as a child, teenager and such, and learning early on to make due w/ what ya have, I went in, closed the door and proceeded to use a toilet that wasn't really a toilet to me, but a whole in the ground. I had on jeans... so can you imagine how difficult it is to squat at one of these things while wearing jeans!! It's not easy... I'll tell ya that much. I guess the girls wearing abayas and such have an easier job w/ it... but I found it to be quite an interesting little toilet journey.

I'll have to admit, it'd be a lot easier if they had little handle bars or something to hold on to. But NOOOO... no such luck. AND.. to make matters worse, there is NO toilet paper. Just a hose to spray yourself off w/. Which is the case w/ all the bathrooms in this part of the world. You'll find a spray hose next to the toilet but a lot of times, no toilet paper. I don't like not having toilet paper... actually, I hate that but the hose is a good way to clean up, but... I don't get the no toilet paper thing. To me it's messy and who wants to be wet??!! after going to the bathroom?!


This brings up another issue... I was reading this girl's blog a while ago and she was talking about westerners walking around w/ "shit smeared asses", to directly quote her. I guess she believes this because we don't have spray hoses in our bathrooms... but to me, these things don't get you clean, and the only true way to get clean is by the use of toilet paper. Yeah, I know... what a weird topic to talk about, but it's the truth. I mean, you can't get clean just by water alone, and I have seen several houses in my time of being in Bahrain that don't supply toilet paper in the bathrooms, and I've gone into various public bathrooms that have the toilets on the ground and/or regular toilets but no tissue paper but they all have spray hoses.

So... my question is... how do people stay clean here? Using the bidet? Well, ok.. that's one solution, but still... no toilet tissue... so, what do you do? Ok, there's soap and.... I guess you use your hand. Is that why some ppl say that Arabs don't use their left hands to eat w/ and such? I've read blogs where ppl have talked about this but never given reasons... which has always left a question in my mind... and I've asked my husband and he says it isn't the case, but it's not the feeling I get after reading some of these blogs and such. So... what gives?!

My husband told me that you're raised not to use toilet paper... only the spray hose. Ok, I understand it's a different culture, different traditions and such.... but... toilet tissue is such a clean way of doing things. He told me that at the schools, most of the toilets are on the ground and you'll never find toilet tissue... NEVER.

I don't know... I remember when I was a young girl and would visit my cousin's house. She lived in what we referred to as the boondocks. Meaning... WAY out into the country. Well, they had a nice house w/ bathrooms, but... they also had an outhouse. All the children were made to use the outhouse. It really smelled bad! And there were always flies and such flying around, but you did have toilet tissue. Not that it mattered but... there were no fancy toilet seats or such... just hard wood and a lid that you lifted and closed down after each use. Honestly, it was gross and I always hated going to the outhouse. I thought my aunt was crazy for making us kids use that, but... it didn't stop her. Actually, we'd get in trouble if she caught us using the bathroom in the house and the last thing you wanted was to get in trouble at this aunt's house... because she could be quite mean w/ the switches! So you learned real quick not to mess w/ her.

I can remember going into my husband's bathroom in the States and he had this watering pot/can next to the toilet. I've seen this before cuz my older sister had some friends from the Middle East when she was in college and they always had these things in the bathrooms - reason: the U.S. doesn't have spray hoses next to the toilets... ANYWAY... the hubby isn't the only one who had these watering cans next to the toilet... all of his friends had them as well or the ones we visited. It's kinda funny to go into the bathroom and see these. At first you kinda wonder what it's all about but then.... it's no big deal. Just like the hoses here... at first it takes some getting used to when using them, but then... you understand the reason behind it. One thing you have to be careful of is a hose that gets a little outta hand... don't want that or you could wind up seriously wet! I guess mastering these things takes a little time.... or maybe I'm a little slow! ;)

The only thing I don't understand the reason behind... is why the toilet tissue is missing from so many places and why so many ppl don't use toilet tissue. But then again, they probably think we're weird for using toilet tissue. Go figure.


Anonymous said...

from an easterner's pov, the thing thats weird is no water/bidet in western toilets. very unomfortable. always carrying bottle of water. and kleenex too.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I can imagine.

I didn't know they used "squatties" in the Middle East like they do here in East Asia. That's interesting.

Actually, though, here in Japan Western-style toilets are starting to catch on, as are computerized, self-measuring, self-heating, multi-function bidets.

I think this just illustrates a fundamental rule of cultures in contact: you're most comfortable with what you grew up with.

Olivia said...

LOL you just reminded me of squatty toilets I've used:

My first encounter was in December last year, in Switzerland. It was COLD.

My second was this summer in Italy, fortunately this time I had less clothing on AND was in a skirt. Whew.

I grew up with a toilet paper, a bidet and a towel.
When we moved to the US we either made do with baby wipes or hung over the bathtub. ROTLF, please excuse any unbidden images!

I am rather chuffed to have a bidet once again in my bathroom.

My aunt in Canada has a squirty bottle by her toilet (and tissue of course). She wickedly calls it the batty bottle.

I was appalled to read of your aunt making the children use the outhouse. I suppose they lived so far out that plumbing was considered a luxury and she didn't want any kids messing with it.

Olivia said...

Minstrel - my friend who visited Japan told me about the toilets in Tokyo that have a button to make flushing sounds to cover your tinkling noises. Because, obviously, bodily function sounds are embarrassing in Japan.

It's funny how in the West we can listen to each other tinkle and then come out and face each other enough to chat while we wash our hands, or whatever. It's a sort of dissociation.

Leilouta said...

I don't know what to say ...

I understand both sides, I understand that you need to dry yourself up and therefore need toilet paper. I would never trust a towel especially if I lived with others :)

tooners said...

I much prefer spray hoses over bidets. But, I didn't grow up w/ them, so that's prob why. Honestly, I don't get what all the fuss is about. It seems more like a pain to have to get up and move over there, etc. The spray hose is much better, I think. :)

moody, I didn't realize that Japan had "squatties" (I like that name). The new computerized bidets in Japan sure sound interesting. They think of everything!

olivia, I knew that Europe had bidets, but I didn't know they had squatties as well. Interesting! I would never have thought it. And yes, it's much easier w/ less clothing. But you know... I think these type of toilets are better w/ respect to germs. You don't have to worry about who sat on the toilet and if they were clean and whatnot. I always think about that here because the women refuse to clean up the toilets after they use them. There is water everywhere - even on the toilet seats and, really, I never know if it's from them using the bathroom or washing up for prayer. I'm assuming it's for prayer but still... they could clean up. And yes, my aunt was something else. Quite mean when she wanted to be. If you pissed her off she'd make you get a switch from the tree, clean it and then smack you w/ it! And, believe me, that is PAINFUL!

and like leilouta, not sure that I'd want to use a towel that everyone else was using. I most definitely would have to have my own private little towel! ;)

tooners said...

and Hi anon, yes, I'm sure you don't like the fact that western toilets don't have bidets. I'm not sure that there's any place in the U.S. that has them except for private homes. And there definitely aren't any spray hoses. Altho, in thinking about it, you might find these things more often in certain states where you'd find larger groups of ppl from different cultures. For instance, Michigan and Ohio have large Arab communities, you very well could find these things in parts of those states... not sure though.

Thanks for stopping by!

Lilly said...

hehe this topic remind me of grandma house in syria i hate going to the bathroom there i have to buy toilet tissue because they use towels !

The Moody Minstrel said...

my friend who visited Japan told me about the toilets in Tokyo that have a button to make flushing sounds to cover your tinkling noises. Because, obviously, bodily function sounds are embarrassing in Japan.

Oh, really? Olivia, that's actually a new one on me! Actually, there seems to be an unwritten rule here in Japan that, when a man becomes middle-aged, he has to display his oozing masculinity by exaggerating his bodily noises! Riding the train at night can be pretty disgusting, because you wind up surrounded by all these very drunk, middle-aged businessmen smacking their lips, belching, and hocking their throats as noisily (and noisomely) as possible. Of course, walking isn't much better, because then you have to put up with seeing them standing there taking a leak in the middle of the sidewalk.

(Is it just me, or even because of me, or is this thread steadily getting more and more tasteless...?)

tooners said...

lilly, i can't imagine using the towel of someone else! i'd think they smell bad.

moody, yes, please, let's DO digress! ;) wow... what a mental image of older japanese men belching, farting and such in public. i can't imagine it... and above all else, they urinate in public! now this is something i would have never imagined! once i was on vacation and the tour bus drove past this house and there was a man out in the front yard, naked, taking a shower w/ a water hose. now... that freaked me out... but no one seemed to be bothered by it.

jahooni said...

guess your hubby was having a heck of a hard time at my house with no spray thingy to use, only TOILET PAPER!!!!

the little things we take for granted here.

do the toilets on the ground at least have paper rings to cover the seat???

Olivia said...


Well I guess the sound rule only applies to women...!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

My son took an Indian lad - about 14, from an educated family, newly arrived in Fiji, on a picnic and a bit of fishing.
After a while the lad said, 'I want to use the bathroom.' My son asked an obvious question and got the answer.
'Well, just do it over the side of the boat.'
'Oh, no way,' said the boy and he just held it in until they reached the shore half an hour later.

Puppy said...

Well :) that again proves that Azerbaijan is a country where east and west meets :) Actually i will say Azerbaijan cities, not villages. U can see a toilet paper and water hoses in all WC. In other small cities of Azerbaijan if u cant see a water hose u will see a toilet paper with separate standing water pot, which we call “Aftafa”

Once i was in one of Azerbaijan villages. I was at my friend’s grandma house. We had breakfast and I wanted to pee. I said I want to go to toilet. They showed me a wooden cube, I entered there and there was a hole on the ground, It was very smelly there. I want to mention that before entering I hold my breath. I peed very quickly, place had that “aftafa” but I didn’t use it I ran out from there, even didn’t manage to close zip my pants. I vomited straight away, half of my breakfast, was gone. It was very bad experience and very bad toilet. Big ieeuuuuu. But I am happy for Azerbaijan cities.

that was my toilet say :)


tooners said...

puppy... you're funny! your experience reminds me of out houses in the states a LONG time ago. you'd go in and there's be nothing but a wooden bench type of thing w/ a toilet lid. you lift the lid and there's a hole where you do your business. it smells REALLY bad.... like nothing you can imagine. i always hated using these!

still breathing said...

we do have both toilet paper and water hoses in Egypt...not in public bathrooms though, just in mall bathrooms.

for me, i always hold it in (except when my bladder threatens to explode) till i get home...i hate public restrooms no matter how clean they are.