Posted by: imalqata | February 11, 2013

A cool one

Monday, February 11, 2013

Old water carrier and new

New water container and old

While we are used to drinking water from plastic bottles, our workmen prefer a more traditional container.  They use a double-handled jug called a ‘ballas’ after the town that produces them.  There are important ancient sites near there (more on one of those later…) but also it is a source of very fine, marl clay that is mined out in the desert at the edge of the cliffs bordering the Nile.  The porous clay allows the jar to “sweat” and naturally cool its contents. Ballas jars have been the preferred container for water for more than a century and are marketed all over Egypt.

Image Egyptian women with ballases circa 1900


John Singer Sargent Mural, 1921, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The shape of the ballas has become iconic and is copied not only in Egypt in plastic bottles for molasses and other products but figured as a symbol of the east in art and was even used for a in British commemorative porcelain.

Peter Lacovara


Goss Crested Egyptian Water Jar, ca. 1918


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