Hammaming in the Sham: A Journey Through the Turkish Baths of Damascus, Aleppo and Beyond

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9781859642849: Hammaming in the Sham: A Journey Through the Turkish Baths of Damascus, Aleppo and Beyond
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Legend has it that Damascus once had 365 hammams or ‘Turkish baths’: one for each day of the year. Originally part of an ancient Roman tradition, hammams were absorbed by Islam to such an extent that many became almost annexes to nearby mosques. For centuries, hammams were an integral part of community life, with some fifty hammams surviving in Damascus until the 1950s. Since then, however, with the onslaught of modernization programs and home bathrooms, many have been demolished; fewer than twenty Damascene working hammams survive today. In Hammaming in the Sham, Richard Boggs travels the length and breadth of modern Syria, documenting the traditions of bathing in Damascus, Aleppo and elsewhere, and his encounters with Syrians as they bathe. In his portrayal of life in the hammams he reveals how these ancient institutions cater for both body and soul, and through his conversations with the bathers within he provides insights into the grass roots of contemporary Syrian society. Approximately 140 color photographs accompany the text, portraying the traditional neighborhoods of Damascus and Aleppo, and the almost religious feel of the hammams. The author’s intimate portraits of the baths’ employees and bathers show a unique side of Syria rarely exposed to the outside world.

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About the Author:

RICHARD BOGGS has worked for over a decade in the Arabic-speaking world, teaching in Yemen, Lebanon and Khartoum. For two years he lived on one of the most remote places on earth: the Yemeni island of Socotra. His island experiences are published in his first travel book, The Lost World of Socotra (Stacey International, 2009). When not travelling he likes to cultivate his herbaceous border in Ireland.

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Hammaming in the Sham by Richard Boggs is a rather interesting compendium of the hammams, or Turkish Baths, or Roman Baths, across Syria. He visits every kind and bathes in most of them, telling the elegance of their architecture or the derelict nature of each. He gives honest assessments of their cleanliness and hygiene (or lack thereof) along with some very interesting conversations and encounters with locals, who almost always welcomed him with open arms and offered whatever food and drink they had. Boggs obviously enjoyed the research for this book in a climate and atmosphere in which he had always felt comfortable. This is an interesting and informative survey with lots of history and interpersonal encounters, especially if you are going to the Middle East and want to understand this centuries old treasured custom of communal bath houses, for relaxing and gossiping, and learning the news, and generally keeping up with your friends. In most cases the men's hammams were separate from the women's. -- Bonnie Neely, Real Travel Adventures, 2011/04/25

Hammaming in the Sham by Richard Boggs is a rather interesting compendium of the hammams, or Turkish Baths, or Roman Baths, across Syria. He visits every kind and bathes in most of them, telling the elegance of their architecture or the derelict nature of each. He gives honest assessments of their cleanliness and hygiene (or lack thereof) along with some very interesting conversations and encounters with locals, who almost always welcomed him with open arms and offered whatever food and drink they had. Boggs obviously enjoyed the research for this book in a climate and atmosphere in which he had always felt comfortable. This is an interesting and informative survey with lots of history and interpersonal encounters, especially if you are going to the Middle East and want to understand this centuries old treasured custom of communal bath houses, for relaxing and gossiping, and learning the news, and generally keeping up with your friends. In most cases the men's hammams were separate from the women's. -- Bonnie Neely, Real Travel Adventures, 2011/04/25

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9781859642283: Hammaming in the Sham: A Journey Through the Turkish Baths of Damascus, Aleppo and Beyond

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