Khaled Saleem Al-Humaidi
MAKKAH — In the history of the Zamzam well, there have been several significant milestones. The first was in 1964 when the use of buckets to draw water ended. It was replaced with taps after the late King Saud ordered the expansion of the mataf (circumambulation area). The mouth of the well was positioned below the mataf in a basement 2.7 meters deep.
Pilgrims could descend to the well using a divided staircase, one for men and the other for women.
The second phase was in 1979 when King Khalid issued directives to clean the Zamzam well using the latest available methods with the help of professional divers. This was one of the largest cleaning operations in the history of the well. This also resulted in an increase in the flow of water.
The third phase was in November 1979, the well’s second cleaning operation. Dr. Yahya Koshak, a Saudi academic, told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that the well was cleaned twice in the Kingdom’s history. He was given the opportunity to participate in both the cleaning operations. He said the Zamzam well is peculiar in the sense that the flow of water can be stopped for a period of time.
On the first cleaning operation, he said, “We started measuring the depth of the well from several directions. The depth ranged between 19.2 and 19.8 meters. Then we placed a weight at the end of a thick rope. The weight was descended vertically to guide the divers, who had put on full diving suits.
They descended into the well with torches. They spent half an hour in the well and were able to give us a clear picture of the well from inside. They said the well was plastered from inside to a depth of nine meters. Under the level of the plastering, their compass stopped functioning. They dived once again found several metal buckets and other vessels. This was the reason the compass was not functioning.”
He added: “During the preparatory exploration operation some technical problems appeared because the divers were using compressed air cylinders for breathing in water. The quantity of air in the cylinder was enough to last 20 to 30 minutes, whereas a diver could not stay at the bottom of the well for more than 20 minutes. A continuous source of air had to be found. Compressors had to be used to pump air continuously while the drivers were in the well.”
The other problem, he said, was in carrying away the leftover items and mud. He said they used a plastic container. They also devised a method for communicating with the divers.
As to the second cleaning operation, Dr. Koshak said this was after the turbulent events in the Grand Mosque in November 1979. Groundwater collected around the well and it was necessary to remove it using submerged pumps. The submerged pump managed to reduce the water level in the well to five meters only. It was required to change the water in the well. The source of the water in the well was seen for a few minutes. Samples of the water was taken and analyzed. It was found to be free from any pollution or bacteria.
Source: Saudi Gazette