The Shatafa is a purely Egyptian invention. It did not appear in its final form except during the second half of the last century. It started in many basic forms, but the final one is the epitome of genius.
For those uninitiated, the Shatafa, as succinctly describes by a British friend of mine, with a great deal of fondness and respect, is: “a bum wash”. A very apt description but which gives only the bare minimum of what it means to all who use it and love it.
Although the French after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt tried to emulate it by making a bidet part of your ablutions, yet the Shatafa is something way beyond that.
Let me give you a description of what it looks like. In the beginning it looked like an inverted hook coming out of the back of the bowl of your toilet seat. I remember having one in the office of a company I used to work for. Once we had some Swiss visitors from headquarters, and the Financial Director asked to show me something as he had a question. I followed him to the bathroom and he pointed at the Shatafa and asked “Is this used by Muslims?” I don’t know how I kept a straight face but replied: “It is used by anyone who sits down”. He was fascinated. I am glad though that he asked instead of experimenting with it. A few enterprising, curious visitors keep trying to find out what it is and how it works, and when they do they are splashed in the face.
The bane of Egyptians traveling abroad is the lack of the Shatafa. But being the enterprising entrepreneurs that they are, they invented a portable one, in two different sizes. Now Egyptians can travel abroad comfortably.
The new modern Shatafa looks very discreet and is adaptable. It looks like a small piece of flat circular metal in the back of the toilet bowl, with a discreet handle outside the bowl to the right and back of it, to regulate the water. The circular part in the bowl which dispenses the water can be adjusted to different directions.
The Shatafa is such an important part of Egyptian culture, but until recently a very discreet part. Yet with the advent of the portable Shatafa and the need to advertise, the subject of the Shatafa has become common knowledge and can be discussed in good and even mixed company. This was proven by a hoax lately played by some youth on all the Egyptians on Facebook by reporting that the government has issued a decree in which it levied an extra tax on all shatafas, as their use constitutes a very large amount of Egyptians’ water consumption. Until it was found that it was a hoax there was a great deal of consternation among Egyptians.
As a proud Egyptian I am sure that this article will help many a foreigner who visits Egypt, and save him/her from a face splash.
3 July 2015