Home Move to DubaiFamily life The famous Shatafa; Middle Eastern Bidet & why you need it!

The famous Shatafa; Middle Eastern Bidet & why you need it!

by Danni B
Published: Last Updated on

For many people when they first visit or move to the Middle East region, they may be wondering. What on earth is that water gun next to the toilet? It’s the Middle Eastern bidet! Also known as the bum gun!

The Arabic word is Shattaf or Shatafa. So if you’re curious to learn more. Such as where it originally came from, what the benefits are of using it (from a bowel surgeon), and why you definitely shouldn’t drink from it. Continue reading! Plus I’ll give some practical advice on how to use to use it! So let’s go!

Certainly, with Coronavirus and toilet paper disappearing off the shelves, even more people in Europe and the United States have become curious about bidets and other ways to clean yourself after the toilet! This is the Middle Eastern version of a bidet and is way more convenient than the style commonly seen in Europe which is basically an oval shaped sink that you sit on.

What is the water gun next to the toilet? What is the Arabic name of the bum gun?

The name in Arabic is called a “Shatafa” or “Shattaf” and this is the Middle East version of a bidet. It’s also called a bidet shower or spray bidet in English. The European version, which is like a sink, is called a Bidet.

The purpose of it is simple. To clean your intimate areas after going the bathroom.

What is a bidet?

A bidet has multiple forms but there are three main ones. The word itself originally comes from France. It is traced back to the 1700s when a porcelain bowl with legs was filled with water and used. The word “bidet” means pony and is thought to represent the way in which you straddle over it.

western style white ceramic bidet with silver tap in a bathroom with marble tiles

The modern version of this basin kind is similar to a sink and has a tap at the top. You turn the tap on, sit over it after going to the bathroom and wash yourself.

The second kind is the style popular in Japan which is built into the toilet and fully electric. Operated by a button, it comes out from inside the toilet bowl and sprays upwards.

The third kind which is more common in the Middle East and Asia is called a spray bidet or shower bidet. It is a hose connected to the main water that you use while sitting on the toilet. It has a small lever you push with your thumb in order to spray the water. This is called a shatafa or shattaf.

You can even have a fancy gold one if you want to feel regal while in the bathroom

🚿 Buy the travel shattaf that when viral on TikTok 🚿

What is a Middle East toilet?

So in the UAE, it’s generally pretty rare to see this style which is sometimes nicknamed the “Middle Eastern Toilet” but you may find them occasionally.

If you visit Saudi Arabia or another Gulf country then you may find what is called a squat toilet. They are very common in other parts of the Middle East. Also sometimes in older Gulf homes.

middle eastern toilet or squat toilet with beige tiles and a small waste paper basket, popular in Middle East and Asian countries

This type of toilet is better for bowl health as the squatting position creates a more favourable shape of the lower bowel, making it easier for your body to eliminate waste.

The western toilet however has grown in popularity in the region due to it’s ease of use and more comfortable use. To make the western style toilet more bowel friendly. You can add a step which raises the feet when sat and thus causing a squatting position.

What is a Shattaf or Shatafa? Where did it originate?

Shattaf is taken from the Arabic word ‘to rinse.’ The Shattaf or Shatafa is specifically the hose style bidet that is used to clean yourself. In Islam, cleanliness is highly regarded. Including washing yourself after the bathroom and when you’ve been intimate with your partner.

This is why these items are hugely popular with Muslims and why you’ll find them in the majority of Muslim countries! Though how it exactly originated or from where is not known.

One of the oldest versions we find is called the “Lota” which is a pot with a thin spout that allows for you to clean yourself after going the toilet. We can trace the “Lota” back to the 2nd century BC in India.

You’ll find them in all public bathrooms across Dubai, such as Dubai Mall and Mall of Emirates.

Second century lota found in Indian in a glass display cabinet from the British Museum in London
This is one from The British Museum in London

How do you use a Shattaf?

It can definitely take some getting used to! Especially the first few times you use it. So here are some tips for using the Shattaf for the first time!

  1. Locate the water valve for the Shattaf / Shatafa
  2. Unhook or remove the Shattaf from the holder
  3. Point the Shattaf down into the toilet bowl
  4. Press the thumb leaver
  5. Assess the water pressure
  6. Turn the valve up or down depending on your preference, normally located on the wall (if it’s your first time best to set it lower)
  7. Use it to wash the front and then slowly move towards the back
  8. Hold in place at the back to make sure a good amount of water cleans the area
  9. Take some toilet paper and wipe until clean
  10. Repeat if necessary

Everyone has their own different ways they prefer to use the Shatafa and you can experiment for your own preference. Some prefer to use tissues first and then wash.

Also in some Muslim countries, it’s common to not supply toilet paper as people use their left hand to clean this area instead (hence why you shake with your right hand and not your left in the region!)

Traditionally people would carry a re-useable towel especially for drying off after using the shattaf. This is especially true in more remote locations in the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

Though do not worry, your luxury hotel in Dubai will definitely have toilet paper!

Are bum guns sanitary? Why should you use the Middle East bidet?

Yes, shatafas or bum guns are more sanitary than using just toilet paper alone. As the water removes more fecal matter than using only toilet roll.

We asked a Doctor who specialises in bowel surgery for his medical opinion. “Wiping these delicate areas with dry paper and over wiping can cause fissures or damage to the area. In addition, when using paper alone, fecal matter can end up being wiped around to the urinary tract. This increases your risk of a urinary infection. The Shattaf improves hygiene and the water helps to avoid this friction.”

Bum gun vs bidet

We look at the positives and negatives of each in order to decide:

Positives– Able to adjust the temperature– Easy to use
– Can be used while sitting on the toilet
– Can adjust water pressure
– Can spray directly onto yourself
– Can easily be installed
– Cheaper to install
Negatives– More difficult to use
– Requires to hover over the basin
– Need to move from the toilet
– Hard to adjust the water pressure
– Needs a larger bathroom to fit it in
– More expensive
– Not usually able to adjust the water temperature
– Can end up spraying water over the bathroom
– Sometimes leak if the water valve isn’t turned off

Overall, the bum gun is a lot easier to use than the sink style Bidet and therefore you are much more likely to keep using it. I know many households in England who installed a Bidet due to their popularity in the 1980s but now barely use them.

This is likely due to the lack of ease when using them when compared with the spray bidet / shatafa.

If you’re looking to install one in your home, Walmart has several hose bidet options and offers worldwide shipping.

If you’re curious about more of Dubai and the Middle East, make sure to check out these other articles:

Tourist rules in Dubai, the Do’s & Don’ts of Dubai as a tourist
Learn about the famous Burj Al Arab with these facts and how to visit
What is the traditional food of the UAE and where can I eat it?
What are those white dresses that men wear in Dubai? Emirati clothes
Beginners guide to visiting a Mosque for the first time

Final thoughts

Once you get used to using the Shatafa or Shattaf it’s very hard to go back to not having one. In fact you can even buy this travel one which went viral on Tiktok, to make sure you never go without it again!

Now when I go back home I always take a travel shattaf with me.

I’m sure if you’ve been to the Middle East or spent any amount of time living there, the ‘bum gun’ will quickly become one of your favourite items and hopefully the above has helped you learn more about it and how to use it properly!

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