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How To Use a Squat Toilet

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Squat Toilet in Morocco

Squat toilet in Morocco

© Rob Cockerham
Common throughout Africa, you'll likely encounter squat toilets in bus stations, local restaurants, train stations and budget hotels. Squat toilets (see image) are the upscale version of a "long-drop" which is simply a hole in the ground. Both long-drops and squat toilets usually come without toilet paper, but most should have a bucket (or bowl) of water to wash yourself with. Practice makes perfect, and after a while you'll be reading a newspaper while you go.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: n/a

Here's How:

  1. Enter the squat toilet and look around for any toilet paper (unlikely) or water supply. You should find a small tap with a bucket or bowl underneath.

  2. Put your feet on the foot rests, the two corrugated or ribbed parts on either side of the hole of the squat toilet. Face away from the hole (usually towards the door or entrance of the toilet).

  3. Pull your clothes down but make sure they stay above your feet and don't get wet. Roll up your pants or tuck them into your socks. These toilets are usually wet on the ground because people use the water to wash themselves, or they don't aim too well. The safest thing to do is just remove your pants or skirt completely and hang them over the door (if there is one.)

  4. Get into the squat position and make sure your feet are FLAT on the ground. If you're on your toes you're very likely to tip forward or backward. Flat feet give you better balance and it's much more relaxing on your thigh muscles if you are going to be in this position for a while. Spread your feet wider if you find yourself toppling. As The Banterist points out in a hilarious account of using a squat toilet, "Assume a squatting position like a competitive ski jumper".

  5. Go ahead and finish your business by aiming for the hole. Scoot forward or backwards if you're missing completely (without losing your balance). Don't worry, practice makes perfect.

  6. If you plan to use the water to rinse yourself off, take the bowl pour it over your bottom and use lots of water. Let the running water clean you off, and use your left hand to rinse and clean, only if necessary. Try and avoid splashing your clothes with water. If you have your own toilet paper it's usually not a good idea to throw it down the hole because you'll ruin whatever plumbing there may be. Find a trash can instead.

  7. Use the water provided in the bowl or bucket to flush. Pour the water along the side of the squat toilet so it swirls around and cleans the whole bowl before going down. If the bucket or bowl was filled when you came in, be courteous to the next person and refill it before you leave.

  8. Wash your hands thoroughly if there is water available, or use some anti-bacterial wipes, or hand gel.

  9. Be grateful that squat toilets and "long-drops" exist because they are much more hygienic than a western toilet without adequate plumbing! Enjoy the fact that there is no toilet seat you have to try and hover over or even sit on, given the condition of some of these toilets.

Tips:

  1. Bring your own supply of toilet paper with you at all times. Wet wipes are actually best. Do not ever flush paper down the toilet if a trash can (bin) is provided, you'll likely clog up whatever plumbing there is.

  2. Bring a small bottle of anti-bacterial gel with you. This is very handy because there will rarely be soap or even a sink to wash your hands in after you use the toilet. And you really want to wash your hands if you are washing your bottom instead of using toilet paper.

  3. If the idea of a squat toilet is unappealing to you then find a western style hotel and use their facilities instead (if there's one in the neighborhood).

  4. Don't lose your wallet and change in your back pocket while in squatting position ... it won't be fun trying to retrieve it.

  5. Leave a big tip if there is a toilet attendant, it's a crappy job.

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