Hamams Maintain Their Attraction

National Yemen

By Tamjid Alkohali

Not only are they considered historical landmarks, popular hamams or Turkish baths in Sana’a also have cultural, health, and religious significance.

Going to the hamam is something brides and grooms do before their wedding ceremony. Most people believe it has health benefits and is also fun and relaxing.

Sabah Jahoush, who has worked as an accountant in Almeedan Hamam in old Sana’a, spoke more about the importance of these hamams.

According to Jahoush, hamams are everywhere in Sana’a. However, the best are in old Sana’a, where the Turkish built 14 hamams before the 11th century AD. This is why they are sometimes called Turkish baths.

Despite of the strong competition between the Turkish baths and modern hamams, the Turkish baths maintain their attraction among people today.

Jahoush confirmed that her customers have not decreased over the past 20 years. In fact they have increased. “At least 30 women from different ages come to the bath on normal days, but on occasions such as weddings and holidays, the number of customers reaches 200 a day,” she added.

The Almeedan Hamam, which is over 150 years old, is considered a unique architectural masterpiece. It was built in a traditional style near a mosque. “Most of the hamams were built near mosques as a kind of cleaning where the people take a bath before they go to pray,” said Jahoush.

Usually, the hamams contain three parts built underground. The first part is the hall where people wear their clothes, drink tea or a cold drink and relax. It’s very wide and the coldest place in the bath. The second part is inside the bath. It contains many rooms and has a medium temperature. The third place is the hottest, where people lie down and have massages before taking a shower.

“Under the hottest place there is a basement to set fire 24 hours a day using gas in order to make the water and the rooms very hot, in addition to two taps for cold and hot water in each room and holes in the roof for light,” Jahoush explained.

Sabah said that work begins at 8:00 AM. They receive customers, according to the day either women or men, until just before sunset at 5:00 PM.

“Usually we dedicate three days of the week for women, which are managed by female workers, and four days for men with male management,” she added.

The management of the bath offers a variety of services for customers such as selling masks of faces, hair, and bodies, and the bath items like soap, natural fibers, shampoo, and cold and hot drinks. There are also two or three helpers who give massages. The price of these extra services is added to the price of the bath, which is only 500 YR (2 dollars).

The prices of Turkish baths are considered very reasonable for many people, rich or not. Therefore, they are visited by a lot of people.

Turkish baths are very important for both men and women. According to Yemeni tradition, the groom and bride should go to the Turkish bath at least three times in order to get smooth and pure skin.

“Brides or grooms are considered distinctive customers from the other customers. We offer them different services such as incense and perfumes, adding to a joyous atmosphere,” Jahoush said happily.

Despite medical development, most people believe in the Turkish baths’ ability to treat diseases such as colds, coughs, fevers, headaches, and backaches.

The recent spread Finnish saunas in sport club, and hotels hasn’t effected the popularity of Turkish baths