The hamam, or bath house, is possibly the most important
building in the entire town. It is usually attached to a mosque, khan or bazaar. Once you
step inside, you immediately see a large dressing room covered with a dome. Around this
room would be benches covered with mats on which bathers would sit on to undress, and
where they left their cloth. Once this is done, they would enter the main bathing area
where they would get massaged or shaved by attendants. They washed by throwing bowls of
water over themselves. The water is supplied from pipes, one brings in cold water
and the other pipe channel hot water. The water would flow into basins made of marble, and
the overflow would always seep away through holes in the marble floor.
The next room which the people entered is a room where the water and the room itself was heated. They are heated in a similar manner as the Roman baths, except that there are no pools for swimming. This is because the Muslim religion says that people can only bathe in running water. The only light supplied into the room is through glazed holes set in the thickness of the dome. After this heat treatment, the bathers would return to a warm room to relax and chat with friends before dressing and leaving the soothing process of bathing.
All accommodations were sex separated. The baths are similar and often next to each other so that the heating appliances could be shared. A separate form of bath is provided for medical purposes. Instead of traveling to several rooms, the patient would sit in a circular pool filled with running water from natural hot springs.
As for the town's water, it is provided by aqueducts and underground pipes and then stored in cisterns. Before, people would either have to trek far distances to a watering hole and then lug it all the way back to their house. Or, they would bring pails over to the public baths and fetch water from there.
1. Leacroft, Helen and Richard, The Buildings of Early Islam, London, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1976