Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Zam Zam Water

Catalog Number: J039/G002


box: 3.85" x 3.85" x 5.98"

97.76 mm x 97.76 mm x 151.77 mm

bottle: 4.06" x 3.79" x 6.19"

103.23 mm x 96.27 mm x 157.22 mm

Materials: Plastic
Usage: N/A
Detailed Description of Significance:

Catalogued by Annabelle Yang:

Ibrahim, or Abraham, is the patriarch of the family of monotheistic religions that bear his name – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In all three, Hajar was a servant who bore Ibrahim a son before his wife, Sarah, was able to conceive.  However, Sarah later bore a son of her own and became jealous of Hajar and Hajar’s son, Ismail. Thus, Ibrahim took Hajar and Ismail away, to the desert where Mecca would eventually stand. Though Ibrahim left the two with water, this quickly ran out. Hajar, in desperation, ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa seeking water – the angel Jibril came to her aid after her 7th circuit, opening a well in the earth. This became the miraculous Well of Zamzam. During the hajj, or sacred pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims imitated Hajar’s flight between the hills, and visit the well itself.


These pilgrims often take Zamzam water home with them. This particular vessel of Zamzam water, however, came from a Sierra Leonean grocery store in Durham. This reflects the importance of Islam in West Africa, where it has long coexisted with the orixá – some Yoruba stories, in fact, refer to the god Shango as a Muslim (though the depiction also mocks Islamic dietary restrictions).


Water from the Well of Zamzam itself is indeed reputed to possess miraculous healing properties. This half liter bottle is labelled in Arabic and English with a brand name, Torathona, along with nutrition facts. The patterning on the front of the bottle appears to be a stylized well, with water rushing forth. Notably, due to its religious significance, Saudi Arabia actually bans the export of Zamzam water. But whether it is authentic or not, the sale of this bottle in Durham reflects the healing hope offered by the waters of Zamzam, for people across the Afro-Atlantic diaspora.