World’s dirtiest man, 94, dies months after first wash


‘Amou Haji’, who did not bathe for half a century, reportedly ate roadkill and smoked a pipe filled with animal excrement

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Useful vocabulary

roadkill: animals killed on the road by vehicles

hermit: a reclusive person living in solitude

soot: a black, powdery substance consisting mainly of carbon, produced by incomplete burning of organic matter

cinder: synonym for ash(es); partly burnt coal or wood that doesn’t produce flames

to bathe: to wash by immersing your body in water; to have a bath

setbacks: reversals in progress; problems

cleanliness: the state of being clean; hygienic 

overwhelming: (of an emotion) very strong

bonfire: a large open-air fire

marijuana: synonym for cannabis

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World’s dirtiest man, 94, dies months after first wash

An Iranian hermit nicknamed the “world’s dirtiest man” for not taking a shower for more than half a century has died at the healthy old age of 94, state media has reported.

The IRNA news agency reported that “Amou Haji”, an endearing nickname for an elderly person, died recently in the village of Dejgah in the southern province of Fars.

Haji, covered in soot and pus, living in a cinder-block shack, was reported by local media not to have bathed with water or soap in more than 60 years. Villagers said he had experienced “emotional setbacks in his youth” that led him to refuse to wash.

In 2014, the Tehran Times reported that Haji would eat roadkill, smoke a pipe filled with animal excrement, and believed that cleanliness would make him ill. Attempts to bathe him or offer him clean water to drink made him sad. Photos showed him smoking multiple cigarettes at once.

But a few months ago, villagers had persuaded him to wash for the first time, the IRNA reported.
The overwhelming fear of bathing, cleaning or washing is called ablutophobia, which comes under a specific category of phobias. This fear is an anxiety disorder which hasn’t been completely understood but may have been caused by a negative experience or a traumatic incident involving bathing, washing or cleaning in the past.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, a study found that this phobia affects children between the ages of 7-11 more than adults. 

After Haji’s death, the unofficial record could go to an Indian man who also had not bathed for much of his life.

In 2009, the Hindustan Times reported that Kailash “Kalau” Singh, from a village outside the holy city of Varanasi, had not washed for more than 30 years in an attempt to help end “all the problems confronting the nation”.

He would reject water in favour of what he called a “fire bath”. “Every evening as villagers gather, Kalau … lights a bonfire, smokes marijuana and stands on one leg praying to Lord Shiva,” the paper said.

Singh was reported to have said: “It’s just like using water to take a bath. A fire bath helps kill all the germs and infections in the body.”

Adapted from this article by ECP coach Darren ‘Kez’ Kurien

Let’s chat about that

  1. As a species, are we too clean or too dirty? Discuss.
  2. How long could you go without a shower or bath for? Explain.
  3. Do you have any phobias? What are they, and how do you manage?
  4. In what situation(s) do you think you could eat roadkill?
  5. Can you imagine having a fire bath?
    Would it be as effective as soap and water? Why (not)?
  6. How do you feel when you are near dirty/smelly/sweaty people? 
  7. Have you ever been persuaded to do something you didn’t want to? How did you feel?