LOTA: A small, usually spherical water vessel made of brass, copper or plastic used in South Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa to maintain personal hygiene.
“I knew I should’ve put my lota in the safe,” I thought to myself, crestfallen. I had returned to my hotel room, a trying day of meetings behind me, to discover my lota missing. Housekeeping must have thrown it away. “That pitiful little glass by the ice bucket won’t do,” I had concluded two days earlier when checking into the hotel. Instead I had guzzled down a 32 ounce bottle of water so the empty plastic container could serve as my makeshift lota for the duration of my stay.
I went to great lengths to keep it out of housekeeping’s reach, strategically tucking it in the closet behind my suitcase. This proved successful on the first day, but on day two I left in a rush, leaving my precious lota perched on the ledge of the tub by the toilet. It was bound to be thoughtlessly discarded. Sadly, its purpose and elevated status went unnoticed. Had housekeeping recognized that this was more than an empty bottle, it would have been carefully placed on the floor within reach of the toilet, rather than tossing it in the trash. After all, it is for this very reason that Muslims vigorously wash the hotel coffee pot two or three times before its sanctioned use—we know a previous Muslim guest might have substituted the pot for a lota.
Editor’s note: Wajiha Rizvi is an attorney based in Austin, TX. Her writing focuses on food, history, and her experiences as a first generation American. Her views are solely her own. A longer version of this article originally appeared in Alt Muslimah.