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. If you’re curious to learn more. Such as where it originally came from, the benefits 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 best use it! So let’s go!
Certainly, with toilet paper disappearing off the shelves in the last few years, even more people in Europe and the United States have become curious about bidets and other ways to clean themselves 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 an oval-shaped sink you sit on.
What is the Shatafa meaning? Where did it originate?
Shattaf is taken from the Arabic word ‘to rinse.’ The Shatafa meaning 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! This is why it’s sometimes nicknamed a Muslim shower. However, it is not known exactly how it originated or from where.
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.
Prophet Muhammad recommended Muslims to wash themselves with water after the bathroom, so we know it was a practice, but when devices similar to what we see today were invented is unknown.
What is Shatafa in English?
Shatafa in English is called a hose bidet or shower bidet in English, but it has many other names, such as bum gun, bidet sprayer, hand-held bidet, hose sprayer, water sprayer and bum sprayer.
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.
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 is fully electric. Operated by a button, it emerges from 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 and use while sitting on the toilet. It has a small lever you push with your thumb to spray the water. This is called a shatafa or shattaf.
How to use Shatafa
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!
- Locate the water valve for the Shattaf / Shatafa
- Unhook or remove the Shattaf from the holder
- Point the Shattaf down into the toilet bowl
- Press the thumb leaver
- Assess the water pressure
- 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)
- Use it to wash the front and then slowly move towards the back
- Hold in place at the back to make sure a good amount of water cleans the area
- Take some toilet paper and wipe until clean
- 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 themselves, but this isn’t recommended. You’ll find out why below!
In some Muslim countries, it’s common not to 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 for drying themselves off after using the shatafa. You may still find places where no toilet roll is provided in more remote locations in the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.
However, 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. Water removes more faecal matter than using toilet roll alone.
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.”Dr Al Harbi – Heera General Hospital
Shatafa vs bidet
It’s a battle between the bum gun vs the bidet and which one will win? The traditional bidet, popular in Europe, or the Arab toilet hose favourite. Let’s see!
We’ll look at the positives and negatives of each to decide:
|– 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
|– More difficult to use
– Requires hovering 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.
What is a Middle Eastern toilet?
So in the UAE, it’s generally pretty rare to see this style which is sometimes nicknamed the “Middle East 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.
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 its ease of use and greater comfort. To make the Western-style toilet more bowel-friendly, you can add a small step that raises the feet when sitting. Thus causing a squatting position.
Why are there two toilet bowls in Dubai?
If you’re staying in an older hotel in Dubai, you will often find a traditional-style bidet rather than a hose-style bidet, or both may be available. Sometimes, you will also find two toilets in a large cubicle in the shopping mall toilets. One is a toilet set lower down, and the other at the regular height. This is for parents with children so they can go to the bathroom together, making the parent’s life easier.
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 on the shatafa
So now you know what the Arabic toilet washer and bum washer name is, along with the Shattaf meaning or Shatafa. Whichever you prefer to call it.
Once you get used to using the Shatafa or Shattaf it’s very hard to return to not having one. You can even buy this travel one which went viral on Tiktok, to make sure you never go without it again! When I visit my home in England, 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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Lota; Ewer: British museum (16th to 19th Centure) The British Museum. Available at:
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_1996-0224-1 (Accessed: 01 January 2024).
How did the prophet clean himself after relieving himself? – islam question & answer (2023) RSS. Available at: https://islamqa.info/en/answers/219157/how-did-the-prophet-clean-himself-after-relieving-himself (Accessed: 01 January 2024).
Meinch, T. (2022) The surprising history of the bidet started with the wealthy and brothels, Discover Magazine. Available at: https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/the-surprising-history-of-the-bidet-started-with-the-wealthy-and-brothels (Accessed: 01 January 2024).