The Zamzam well in Mecca is considered holy to Muslims as being magically sprung when Abraham's son Ishmael kicked the ground when he was particularly parched to tears and Allah created the spring for the little mite to drink (no thanks then to his poor mother who ran from mountain to mountain to find her son a drink in the desert).
I hope little Ishmael didn't drink too much of that water though because it would seem Allah had the last laugh on him. Scientists have managed to get a pilgrim to Mecca to bring them a sample of Zamzam water to test. What they found was high levels of arsenic in the water; three times over the maximum limit considered for safe drinking, not to mention high levels of nitrates and bacteria.
I had the dubious pleasure of drinking the water a couple of times. I remember my mother coming home with the little terracotta bottles, presents from relatives who could afford to go to Mecca on Hajj, and pouring me a glass of the stuff. I can't say it was particularly refreshing, and thinking back, I do remember it tasting...different to the water I was used to grabbing from the tap in the kitchen. Now I know why. Nothing like a nice glass of diluted arsenic to get the tastebuds tingling.
All joking aside, it is worrying that people are clamouring to drink this poison so willingly, just because they think it came from a sacred well. And that it's being supplied in the UK (how they manage it, I don't know - export of Zamzam water is illegal). But it's there on the shelves in London, in Islamic books shops, being sold to people who by all accounts are drinking it regularly.
"They depend on it, they don't drink anything else," said the owner of an Islamic bookshop in Upton Park.
Those people are killing themselves, pure and simple. It's not the first time either that Zamzam water had caught attention. In 2005, the Food Standards Agency did encounter the fake(?) bottles of water in London and they had high levels of arsenic back then too. You'd think by now the people drinking it would figure out it wasn't healthy for them. Heck, the fact that Saudi Arabia have made it illegal to export the water comercially would make them think twice about buying the stuff from the shelves anyway. And with this damning evidence, one would hope that the authorities in Mecca would put a stopper in the well, too. But, given that the pilgrims don't want to believe their precious holy water might be killing them, it's not going to happen any time soon.