The Arab baths: history and tradition of the hammam

The Arab baths: history and tradition of the hammam

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Hammams have a long history in the Islamic world, and there are even many interesting facts that are not always known. For example, did you know that first hammams in Europe to reopen after the Reconquest were the Arab baths of Granada?

Once the Reconquest is finished and on the existing ruins of an old hammam from the 13th and 14th centuries, located precisely at the foot of the Alhambra.

To learn a little more about one of the most interesting and relaxing Arab traditions, let's briefly see the history of the hammam.

History of the hammam

The function of the hammam?

Called hammam, the Arab baths were one of the main centers where life took place in the Islamic world, being meeting places for the entire society.

In addition to being the center of social relations, they were used for rest or relaxation and also covered religious needs by performing purification rituals.

The first Arab baths

Archaeological remains testify to the existence of thermal baths in the Islamic world since the Umayyad period, between the 7th and 8th centuries.

The first Islamic hammams were built in the region of Syria under the Umayyad Caliphate (661 - 750), forming part of its desert palaces and mansions, as can be seen in Qusayr ‘Amra, Hammam al-Sarah, Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi and Khirbat al-Majfar.

As of that date, they appear in different places such as Volubilis (an old Roman colony in Morocco), Iran or different cities of al-Andalus (Andalusia), especially in Granada and Córdoba.

The Arab baths in Granada

After the Reconquest carried out by the Catholic Kings Isabel and Fernando, in Granada the first hammams in Europe were reopened at the foot of the Alhambra, which settled on the ruins of an old bath from the 13th and 14th centuries.

The adaptation of the hot springs to the Arab world

Its architecture evolved taking as a starting point the design of the Roman and Greek bathhousesIt had a regular structure in terms of rooms: one for undressing, one cold room, one warm, and one hot.

Taking this reference, very quickly Islamic society adapted the baths to their own needs, guaranteeing its importance by the religious requirement of ablutions (wudu and ghusl) before prayers, in addition to its emphasis on physical and spiritual purity.

To understand this, we must know that one of the five pillars of Islam is prayer, and before praying it is customary to perform ablutions.

The two ways to do it are the ghusl, which consists of a cleansing of the whole body, and the wudu, which consists of a cleaning of the face, hands and feet.

Mosques always provide a place to wash, but they often have hammans near them, for those who want to do a deeper cleaning.

The Arab baths today

Hammams continued to be a vital part of the social life of the Muslim world until the beginning of the 20th century., when the development of toilets in private homes made public toilets unnecessary in some regions.

But, the development of tourism has made many historic hammams were restored and returned to their original function due to demand, something that we see especially in cities like Granada, Fez, Marrakech or the various points of Turkey.

In this way, those who visit a modern hammam will feel that they move in time by enjoying a very complete experience, where the architecture (very faithful to the original), the decoration, the smells and the atmosphere that is generated, will make us live a unique sensitive and relaxing experience.

After studying History at the University and after many previous tests, Red Historia was born, a project that emerged as a means of dissemination where to find the most important news of archeology, history and humanities, as well as articles of interest, curiosities and much more. In short, a meeting point for everyone where they can share information and continue learning.

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