In Sudan, a sabeel (Arabic : Public Fountain) is an installation created and maintained by a private person to put free drinking water for the benefit of passers-by and travelers. It is a fountain, but water is not flowing.
The Sudani people who take the initiative to build a sabeel, do it, sometimes, for religious purpose, seeing in it a way, recommended by prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to help the people.
The central element of a sabeel is the terracotta jar, regularly refilled with water, where everybody can draw water to quench their thirst. The forms and the techniques of making the jars vary according to the regions.
A sabeel consist of one, two, three or a full set of jars, of the same or different form, kept on the ground or on stands made of wood, metal or brickwork. Lots of efforts are made to keep away the heat from the jars and their precious content. The jars are placed in well ventilated places, under the shade of a tree, sometimes fixed between the branches or protected from the sun by small covers. They can also be wrapped in pieces of cloth. When a family decides to build a sabeel, the choice of the jars belongs to women.
In Sudan, the water jars, which were in use more for than 5000 years, are part of the landscape in towns and villages, but the rich travelers, who go aboard air-conditioned 4 wheel drive vehicles, do not pay attention to them.
These living relics point to an oft-unspoken truth that these cities have be, for centuries, centres of Islamic civilisation.