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A bunch of baths books:

some of the better books on baths
published during the life of this website

1913: Design of the Turkish bath / Cosgrave     2003: Turkish baths / Yılmazkaya
2004: Cathedrals of the flesh / Brue     2004: Victoria Baths / Williams
2005: Hammams / Meunier     2006: Water is best / Durie
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The hammams of Syria—before the civil war  You can print this page -- Click for printer-friendly version

Hammaming in The Sham

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.

The 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 Palestine'.

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.

Boggs, Richard Hammaming in the Sham: a journey through the Turkish baths of Damascus, Aleppo and beyond (Reading: Garnet, 2010)

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