Measure Ma’an

Jan 29, 2011   //   by peretz   //   photos, videos  //  2 Comments

Each be ruled by his own.

Here in Jalal­abad, wood is ruled by a ma’an (my spelling, try­ing to capu­ture the pro­nun­ci­a­tion. Else­where it is spelled mann.)

Most of the heat­ing and cook­ing energy needs in Afghanistan are sup­plied by wood. Along the road you see plenty of shacks of the wood deal­ers.  Today we stopped by.  Typ­i­cally kids are chop­ping wood while an older bearded pro­pri­a­tor (father/uncle) is sip­ping tea and wait­ing for customers.

Chopping Wood

I noticed our wood was being weighed on a scale, but instead of weights, it was coun­ter­bal­anced by cal­i­brated rocks. The unit of mea­sure is a ma’an, which varies locally but approx­i­mates 7 kilos.

Chopping Wood

A ma’an is the pref­ered unit of mea­sure for wood, and is part of a com­pre­hen­sive unit scale:

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ma’an SI Typ­i­cal Items

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1 khar­war 80 560 kg wheat chaff, scrap metal

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nim khar­war 40 280 kg

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1 ma’an - 7 kg wood, rice

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nimma’an 1/2 ma’an 3.5 kg

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charak 1/4 ma’an 1.25 kg car­rots, onions

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nim charak 1/8 ma’an 625 g

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1 pau 1/16 ma’an 322 g lemons, peanuts, sugar, meat

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nim pau 1/32 219 g

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khord 1/64 109 g henna, chai

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nim khord 1/128 55 g

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pookhtabar 1/256 27 g herbal med­i­cine

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nim pookhtabar 1/512 14 g

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chi­takai 1/1024 7 g spices, surma

Accord­ing to wikipedia the ety­mol­ogy can be traced to the Hebrew word mana, as in mana from the desert. Every day the wan­der­ing tribe that exited Egypt was allowed to col­lect one Omer of mana. On Fri­day, the col­lec­tion was dou­bled, to pro­vi­sion for Sat­ur­day, the Sab­bath day of rest. An omer is a dry weight of mea­sure, approx­i­mately the vol­ume of 3.5 liters of water. On Fri­day there­fore, the col­lec­tion was 7 vol­u­met­ric liters, which would weigh 7 kg (if water).

To con­tinue reach­ing for more con­nec­tions, the ma’an weights were made of stone. An impe­r­ial stone is 6.35kg, not that far off?!

None of this should be con­fused with a ma’an in Pak­istan. A Pakima’an is appar­ently 7 times an Afghan ma’an.

Not every­thing is mea­sured using this scale. If for exam­ple you were buy­ing opium, then the stan­dard mea­sure is a “kar­tus” defined as the weight of a AK47 bul­let cas­ing, a sen­si­ble stan­dard from those at hand.

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