Postcard from Saudi Arabia – In Praise of the Toilet Hose
This little exchange on Twitter set me off today, for a couple of reasons:
When I first read Justin Sink’s comment on the palace bathrooms, I wondered if he was a real person, so appropriate is his name to his subject. I was expecting another comment from Frank Faucet. It turns out that Mr Sink is a journalist with Bloomberg, presumably here in Riyadh to cover President Obama’s visit. So apologies, Justin, for doubting your existence.
Then there’s Ahmad Al-Shathry’s claim that toilet hoses are the reason for the clash of civilisations. I have to disagree.
The toilet hose is a wonderful thing. Every home should have one. I say this even though, being a westerner, I don’t use it for its primary purpose. But a superb device it is for clearing the toilet bowl of unwanted detritus which might otherwise have to be dealt with by a brush, which in turn needs to be cleansed of incriminating material.
What I can’t get my head around is the miraculous way in which the Saudis manage to use the hose. You will often visit a toilet virtually awash with water (water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink!), and yet the previous user emerges with his white thobe pristine – not a spot of moisture in evidence, and no Japanese super-loo complete with driers to be seen.
I have frank conversations with my Saudi friends on many subjects, but toilet technique is not one of them. I’m probably not alone in finding the squat toilet very much a hit-or-miss affair. But fortunately, as in France and Italy, these days squatting is rarely necessary, unless you happen to be caught short at a supermarket, or, heaven forbid, at one of the Kingdom’s less salubrious motorway stops. There the facilities are often filthy, smelly and fly-blown. Not usually a problem for us chaps, but western women of my acquaintance find them a serious ordeal.
One day, if I can overcome spousal objections on grounds of cost, I will install hoses in my home in England. She would definitely welcome spotless bowls, but would probably baulk at the water use. No matter, a clean bowl is a sign of a clean mind.
And there are other uses for this excellent implement. Speaking as a golfer, it would be very useful for hosing down the clubs after a muddy winter round. You can also use it to repel invaders should you accidentally leave the door unlocked. Especially effective against little ones, who would find it highly amusing, even if they might get the wrong idea and then use it for their own nefarious purposes, such as soaking the cat.
So yes, the toilet hose is indeed a thing of beauty, and far from being symptomatic of a deep divide between two cultures, we should be grateful to the Middle East for its existence. It enhances civilization.