A TMI Post on Tanzanian Toilet Practices

May 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

Sooo… toilets. We all use ‘em. What’s odd is that humans all over the world seem to disagree on the best way to use them. Some people prefer the porcelain bowl toilet, some people the shelf toilet model, some like the squat toilet, some champion a dirt hole dug in the backyard (one of my crazy uncles, probably).

The variety doesn’t end there!

Having never lived in a country with a large and acknowledged Muslim population before, I wasn’t familiar with any bathroom differences and didn’t know that water is a required part of the cleansing ritual. Strangely, none of my Arabic studies professors thought to mention what Muslims do in the bathroom! I want my money back. I’d visited the houses of Muslim friends before, had noticed the hoses or bidets, but never really given it much thought.

(Well… except for the one time that I was studying at a male-friend-from-Saudi’s house and had to pee but couldn’t figure out how to flush the toilet because some weird hose thing was interfering with the water supply. I had to ask him for help. Embarrassing! Even then, I didn’t get why this guy had installed a fancy pants bidet in his college apartment and then treated me like I was weird because I didn’t know how to work it. Oh, ignorance.)

Back to bathrooms…


My first week in Tanzania, everywhere I went there were these hoses in the bathroom, and also sometimes buckets of water with a cup next to the toilet. Toilet paper was also provided as an option, so I went with what I knew. Still, I had no idea why these hoses were hanging out in all the bathrooms and I got the feeling toilet paper wasn’t meant to be used by itself.

After a week, curiosity overcame me, and I got up the nerve to ask Nabeel’s mom. She explained that Muslims believe you have to use water in order to be clean, and, of course, Muslims have to be clean in order to pray. The hoses make it convenient and the buckets/cups are there because sometimes water supply is inconsistent.

A few days later my curiosity compelled me to try the hose. I was afraid of using it because I thought it was going to spray water everywhere and then I’d be soaked and embarrassed (WHY do so many of my most embarrassing moments occur in the bathroom?!?). Then I figured, if it works for millions of people around the world, it will probably work for me.

Thankfully, everything else is the same, so the learning curve wasn’t too steep. It turns out using water is easy, and actually *quite* refreshing on hot days. It also seems a lot more efficient and less wasteful than toilet paper. Next time you’re bored, bring your hose in through the window and give it a try. You might like it!


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