This delightful book relates the
author's journey round the hammams of Damascus, Aleppo, and various
other places in
modern Syria. Richard Boggs shares with us the knowledge he has gained
while travelling around the country, and tells us about some of the
interesting conversations he has had with
those who own, manage, and bathe in these—often very old—hammams.
book is well illustrated throughout with around 170 of the author's own
colour photographs. There are bibliographical notes at the end of each
chapter and a glossary which tells us, for example, that Bilad al-Sham
is 'the region bordering on the eastern Mediterranean that is roughly
equivalent to the modern states of Syria and Lebanon and part of
An author who relates discussions
about whether the hammams are Turkish baths or Arab baths, or Syrian
baths or Roman baths, is someone well worth reading.
The Victorian Turkish Baths website
is about its 'origin,
development, and gradual decline', and it
is significant that the decline of the bath has also occurred in Syria
and Turkey, though rather quicker—yet for the same reason: the relatively recent widespread installation of
bathrooms in the home. Boggs suggests that once there were 365 hammams
in Damascus alone; enough to enable a bather to visit a different one
every day for a year. Today, fewer than 20 survive.
There is much else beside the baths
to interest the reader in this book, and all is written in a totally
relaxed and readable style. The hammams have obviously exerted their charm and done
their work well.
The author has worked for over ten
years in the Arabic-speaking world, teaching in Yemen, Lebanon, and Sudan.
Hammaming in the Sham: a journey
through the Turkish baths of Damascus, Aleppo and beyond was
published by Garnet in 2010. The book is well worth adding to your
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