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Amou Haji: The Man who Refused to Wash for Over 60 Years

Hygiene is a deeply personal affair. The shampoo we wash our hair with, the scented soap we scrub across our skin, and even the lotion we apply once we’re bathed are all a reflection of who we are.

Do you like florals? Or maybe crisp, clean scents? Would you prefer your soap to be powerful or gentle for sensitive skin? All of these choices say something about us.

Photograph of Amou Haji, the world’s dirtiest man. Photo via AFP/Getty Images.

So what does it say about someone who hasn’t bathed in over 60 years?

Amou Haji, often called “The World’s Dirtiest Man”, lived this unconventional lifestyle of extreme minimalism for decades. He didn’t wash, slept outside, and despite all of that, he became a welcomed fixture of his community.

Everyone thought that when Amou Haji finally bathed, it would be like a new beginning. He would feel refreshed–reborn, almost.

However, when Amou Haji finally did bathe, he died mere months later.

Here, we will dive a little deeper into the life of Amou Haji, why he chose to forgo bathing for the majority of his time on this earth, and his death at the incredible age of 94.

Amou Haji–The Iranian Man Who Never Bathed

We don’t know much about Amou Haji besides the fact that he didn’t bathe. In fact, we don’t even know his real name.

Haji spent most of his life living in a hole he had dug outside of the village of Dezh Gah, in Fars province of Iran. Later, villagers would build him a simple stone hut.

Amou Haji, or Uncle Haji as he was sometimes called, must have had a proper name at some point. When he died, though, all that was left was the affectionate nickname of “Amou Haji”, which is a term of endearment in Farsi meaning “old timer.”

Sadly, this meant that when Amou Haji perished, there was nothing but a nickname to put on his grave. Who exactly was this mysterious desert dweller?

Why Did Amou Haji Not Bathe?

Haji first started to garner attention in 2014 when the Iranian newspaper The Tehran Times posted an article about the man. At the time, Amou Haji was only 80, and he had not bathed for 60 years.

Even then, Haji was vague about why he avoided cleaning himself. It wasn’t something that he was forced into because of poverty or his anti-conformity mindset.

Instead, Amou Haji’s refusal to bathe was a personal choice that he made. It was simply the way he preferred to live his life. 

Amou Haji sitting inside a hut built for him by locals. Image via AFP/Getty Images.

According to Amou Haji, he hadn’t always been a hermit. In his youth, Amou Haji experienced a number of emotional setbacks that scarred him mentally. 

After these setbacks, he decided to give up the normal social life that was expected of him and move into the desert. He would remain there for the rest of his life.

While Amou Haji is proof that being dirty isn’t going to kill you, there were other basic physical needs that he had to fulfill to survive–food and water.

What Did Amou Haji Eat And Drink?

Since Amou Haji had decided to fully live the loner lifestyle, he had to find ways to get sustenance that didn’t involve cooking or even shopping in town.

There are a number of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that the human body needs in order to function properly. One of the most important of these macronutrients is protein, something which a person like Haji couldn’t acquire by just eating the local flora.

Amou Haji needed meat, but he wasn’t a hunter–what could he possibly do?

In order to feed himself, Amou Haji took up a practice even more foul than his refusal to bathe. The hermit would find and eat roadkill, and it didn’t matter to him what sort of shape it was in.

Rotten meat was perfectly fine for Haji, and he would tell reporters from the Tehran Times that his favorite meal was roadkill porcupine. Haji even carried a porcupine quill around his neck to clean his teeth–he wouldn’t want any of that roadkill overstaying its welcome, after all.  

As far as water went, while he refused to bathe in it, Amou Haji had a pretty significant thirst. The man was reported to drink 1.5 gallons of water a day, all out of a rusty oil tin. This water was unsterilized and often filthy. When he wasn’t able to drink from his oil tin, he would instead sip from puddles.

Most of the people living in the village where Haji lived knew that the man was set in his ways, but help was offered to him occasionally. Amou Haji would always refuse handouts of fresh food and water, saying the charity made him sad.

Amou Haji’s Cause Of Death

Despite his odd diet of roadkill and puddle water, Amou Haji was said to be in astounding health for his age. Living to 94 is a feat for anyone, but for a man who hasn’t bathed in over 60 years, it’s almost a miracle.

Haji wasn’t secretly suffering in silence from a number of ailments, either. In 2014, after the initial article about Amou Haji was released, a parasitologist took interest in the man.

A small team led by Dr. Gholamreza Molavi approached Haji and asked to run some tests to discover the secret to his longevity. These tests would also reveal any illness Amou Haji might be suffering from.

Amazingly, all but one of the tests came out clean. While Haji was tested for everything from Hepatitis to AIDS, he was only diagnosed with the parasitic infection trichinosis.

According to the New York State Department of Health, trichinosis is caused by a microscopic parasite called Trichinella. As to be expected, the number one way that people develop trichinosis is by eating raw or undercooked meat.

Amou Haji sitting down near his hut.

As we learned before, Amou Haji wasn’t just eating raw meat–he was eating meat that had rotted in the sun for an unknown amount of time.

Even more astounding is the fact while he was confirmed to have contracted the trichinella parasite, Amou Haji was basically asymptomatic. He suffered from none of the common side effects of trichinosis, which include nausea, diarrhea, and swelling around the eyes.

Dr. Molavi hypothesized that Amou Haji was so healthy because he had built up an outrageously strong immune system due to his lifestyle.

Despite his apparent health in his latter years, Amou Haji, just like the rest of us, couldn’t live forever. His cause of death wasn’t thought to be because of his lack of bathing or even the trichinosis. Instead, it was simply old age.

Amou Haji died at the age of 94 on October 23. 2022. Even though he had lived alone and separate from society, the desert hermit would be given a funeral by residents of Dezh Gah. They had become fond of Haji, protecting him when his popularity caused troublemakers to show up and pester the man.

Did Amou Haji Die After Bathing?

Rumors persist that Amou Haji died because he was forced to bathe, but in truth, his cause of death is likely old age.

Towards the end of his life, there was increasing pressure from residents of the nearby village on Amou Haji to bathe. There was concern for the health of the elderly man, and multiple attempts were made to persuade him to wash.

Haji evaded all attempts, turning down the kind offers and barely escaping a group of youths that had set out to force him into a shower. Finally, Amou Haji was broken down from the pressure and allowed the villagers to arrange a bath for him.

Those who saw Haji after his bath reported that he was covered in pus and soot from his time without washing. Amou Haji began to feel ill during the months following his bath and tragically was found dead a few months later.

Amou Haji photographed just weeks after taking his first bath in over 60 years. Photo by Unilad.

The time frame is impossible to ignore–Amou Haji survived for decades without bathing, but as soon as he did, he passed away within months.

Still, we can’t ignore the fact that Haji was 94 years old, well past the life expectancy of men in Iran, which is 73.88 years.

It’s also important to note that Amou Haji had more unhealthy habits than just eating roadkill, drinking dirty water and not bathing. For example, instead of cutting his own hair, he would burn it off when it became too long.

He was observed smoking multiple cigarettes at the same time (the one handout he would accept). Other times, he was seen loading a pipe with animal dung to smoke when the cigarettes ran out.

There’s always the chance that the bath may have weakened Haji’s immune system, but it’s more likely he died of old age after living a long, strange, but extraordinary life.


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