I am finally posting after a long break (well, Ramadan is a valid excuse!). Being here in India in Ramadan, one tends to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the old city. The social visits, the courtesy calls; oooooh, and the most interesting ones – the FOOD calls *nom nom*! All this food that I am eating after years takes me back down memory lane. There are so many food stalls and Laaris of any and everything under the sun. The most common and delicious of the foods, especially in Ramadan are Nihari (Mutton slow-cooked in a spicy gravy), Paaye (Lamb trotters), Chicken Tandoori (I’m sure all of you know what that is :P) and Malpua (Kinda like a sweet deep-fried Pancake) to name a few. Anyway, the real reason behind my writing this post and finally coming out of this food coma is to tell you about the time that we visited a miraculous well that contains healing waters.
We drove up to Madinah in the beginning of Ramadan for the weekend. It was a good trip but we were quite tired nevertheless due to excessive crowd and the heat. After paying our respects at the Prophet’s Mosque and taking a night’s rest, we started back for Jeddah. Each time on our Madina trip, we go through the same route through the mountains after taking an exit from Thuwal. But this time, while coming back, we decided to take another route.
I had read about a well in Madina, Bir Ar Rowha or Bir ar Roha*, which had some historical significance. This well (bir, in Arabic) dates back to the times of our Prophet Mohammed PBUH, more than 1400 years back. The story goes this way. This well was initially dug as a means to provide water to the villagers there, and also to the Muslims who used to travel through the village on their way to Makkah. But the water in the well was bitter. All those who drank from that well, man or animal, fell ill. So they stopped using this water.
One such time, while passing through, the Prophet and his Companions stopped by this village. But the villagers told them to not the drink the well’s water as it was poisonous. So the Prophet spat in the well, and since then, the water has turned sweet. Some even say that it has healing properties, hence the name, Bir Al Shifa or Aab e Shifa (Shifa means healing or to heal). So many farmers have even claimed that they made their sick livestock drink this water and they were healthy once again. (Story is based on hearsay, as such legends usually are. So I cannot take any guarantee for sequence of the facts I’m afraid. But the association with the Prophet PBUH is definitely there).
Not many people have heard about this place. So as you might guess, my curiosity got the better of me and we set out to explore further! To go to this well, we went west, towards Yanbu, from Medina, instead of South. We saw markings for so many birs or wells on this road. This must have been a really popular route for the pilgrims back then. This well lies about 80 Kms West of the Prophet’s Mosque. You can search it on Google Maps by the name of “Beer Rowha”. So to cut a long story short, after about 40 mins drive through the picturesque mountains, we finally reached there. On one side of the highway is the well. On the other side is the Rowha village and the hill. You do not need to cross the road unless you want to visit the village.
So we simply took the exit, and just about 2 minutes from the exit, we reached Bir Rowha. The place was in ruins. No signage or even any history written anywhere. Youngsters had graffiti-ed all over the well. The well itself was covered with a net-like grill for safety of the visitors. The most surprising thing of all, this 1400 year old well still had water in it! It was quite a deep well, approximately 15-20 mts deep. This was the first time I had ever seen a proper well in my life. That made me so fascinated by the sight before us. We also saw a man selling drums filled with this water from the well. I wanted to ask him a lot of questions about the place, its history, the well itself. It is a different thing altogether to get the facts from a local, generally. Sadly, my language barrier got in the way and we had to be content with what our eyes saw.
There is a water motor attached in the well which is used to draw the water from the well. There were tanks outside which are used to store water drawn from the well. And the man we saw filled the bottles from these tanks and sold the water. I could not see any machine or mechanism to filter or purify the water. To be honest, because of this, I was a bit skeptical about the purity of the water and did not buy any from the man (I also saw some algae floating on top of the water in the well).
Next to the well was a mosque in a very dilapidated condition. It is said that the Prophet PBUH prayed here along with 70 companions of His. The condition of this whole site was pitiable. And to think of the story associated with it. There were many other ruins surrounding this site.
On the way back, we passed some massive sand dunes. T felt they were just normal mountains covered with sand. That got us into a bit of an argument actually (I like to have the last word always!). We decided to make a detour to Rabigh for a break as well as to roam about in a new city. But since it was the first day of Ramadan, everything was closed and the city looked deserted. So we made for the corniche, sat there for a while in the cool sea breeze and left for Jeddah.
*All the names of places are originally in Arabic. So the translation in English often leads to names with different spellings.