July 17, 2012
-- ANCIENT HISTORY
In Arabic "hamman" means spreader of warmth". Before steam baths were introduced to Arab societies, men and women bathed in cold water. In 630 AD, the prophet Mohammed observed the Roman inspired baths in Syria and recommended the "sweat baths" to his followers as a way to improve fertility. (It is known that the prophet wanted to expand the religion).
As the Islamic faith spread, so did Hamman baths. At first they were common practice among nomadic groups, and later spread to towns throughout Iran, Turkey, North Africa, Greece and eve to Southern Spain. Most of them, connected to the local Mosque, as a center to keep the hygienic standards of the religion. Very much likely the original Roman baths before them, hammams became both a place of rest, as well as an important social site in early Muslim culture. This was especially the case for women, who in many regions were discouraged from socializing outside the home. Hammams were a place where members of all levels of society came together, their low entrance fees making them accessible to the majority of the population. Even wealthy men and women with private baths in their homes would visit the hammam for its social appeal, and by some accounts, to show off their superior cleanliness.
Decidedly less decadent than their Roman predecessors, the first hammams were composed of three chambers with domed white roofs, the design best suited to trap their steam. Heated from the floor, each had hot and cold water for washing, and attendants present for massage and exfoliation treatments...
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