Damascus: 800-Year-Old Bathhouse Endures Despite War


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September 9, 2014
Damascus, Syria

Buried deep the historic al-Hamidiya Market in Damascus, one of the oldest traditional bathhouses in the city continues its business as usual, despite the ongoing war in Syria. Established in 1169, the Nour al-Din al-Shaheed bathhouse is one of the best examples of unadulterated Damascene history. It's cavernous bathing rooms and reception area have changed little over the years and guests can still enjoy an opportunity to experience a custom that has endured centuries of siege, occupation, and war.


(04:51) "I am Majed Abdul Rahman, I work in Nour al-Din al-Shahid public bath. This bath consists of 4 sections: the outside, inside, steam room and the massage and exfoliating room. We have grooms [men about to get married] coming here almost daily. When they come here they use the exfoliating and the massage room, then they shower and after that, they go to the outside section and change the towels, drink some tea and [smoke] nargileh [water pipe], rest, get dressed, pay, then leave. There are lots of public baths, but this bath is special as it is old and cultural, provides a nice experience, and is very communal, they [guests] are allowed to bring food with them." (05:53)

(05:54) "First of all, my work is between Lebanon and Syria, I come to Syria every week, and I cannot come here without passing by the bathroom and bathing here in Souk al-Hamidiya. Every time I come here I have to roam around Damascus, and I cross all this distance from Lebanon to Syria so I can enjoy this bath. Honestly, we do not have baths like that in Lebanon, you can only find it here in Souk al-Hamidiya. The visit to the bathroom is very comforting and relaxing, you forget bout all your troubles at work in Lebanon and you forget about it here in Souk al-Hamidiya. You feel like you went back in time, to the era of your ancestors, and this is something we lack in Lebanon." (06:38)

(06:39) "I come to this public bath with my friends regularly, we are a group of students, we come here to see each other, enjoy our time, the atmosphere here is nice, and it is very relaxing." (06:55)

(06:56) "We are a group of friends, we come here every once and a while, we really like it here and we enjoy our time. I advise every man to come here so he can experience the old culture through this public bath that has been around for over 1,000 years." (07:10)

Various shots of Souk al-Hamidiya

Various shots of the entrance of the bathhouse

Various shots of the bathhouse (exterior section)

Various shots of the bathhouse (interior section)

various shots of the steam room while its empty

Various shots of the steam room

Various shots of the exfoliating room

Various shots of people inside the exfoliating room

Various shots of the massage room

A shot of a person leaving the interior section

Various shots show the services provided in the bathhouse, such as tea and shisha