The History of Middle Eastern Bathing
The hammam is thought to be one of the oldest surviving bathing traditions in the world and can be traced back to the days of the Roman Empire. The Romans and the Greeks placed a high value on washing and bathing culture and Hammams have played a significant role in encouraging hygiene and public health. Thousands of citizens would make weekly visits to bathhouses to cleanse themselves and catch up with others. Before modern-day plumbing, bathing was quite a social institution, whereas presently it is seen as a much more private activity. It has been referred to as ‘the wet variant of the sauna’ and as the Roman Empire expanded all over the world, so did their bathing rituals.
The roman baths usually had a reception which led into three rooms known as a ‘caldarium’ (hot room), ‘tepidarium’ (warm room), and a ‘frigidarium’ (cold room). Visitors would move through the rooms allowing their bodies to perspire freely, aiding the removal of impurities. They would then be exfoliated and cleansed to stimulate blood flow, before finally moving into the cold room for a period of relaxation. Eventually, some of the baths acquired an area for the bathers to exercise.
The idea of the Roman baths generally died out in the West but continued over several centuries in the eastern Mediterranean. The décor trends continued in the baths, with mosaic floors and walls covered in elegant paintings, and statues depicting scenes of women bathing. It is also rooted in the traditions of Arabic culture as a place to purify and prepare for prayer, from 1400 when they began to grow in popularity, hammams were commonly found next to mosques, gardens, and medinas, usually located in beautiful and prosperous cities. Whereas people previously would use Hammams as public baths and get clean, nowadays instead of being a place for personal hygiene they have retained a more ceremonial role, commonly for bridal preparations.
Moroccans are meticulous in the care of their houses and personal cleanliness and whilst Moroccan Hammams have swapped the series of pools and rooms that featured in the Roman Empire, the traditional cleansing, exfoliation, and detoxifying rituals have stayed. Hammams have always attracted Western visitors and often became single-sex establishments with separate bathhouses or bathing times provided for men and women. Presently, this changes from Hammam to Hammam but what is central to any Hammam visit is the body-cleansing ceremony of raising peoples body temperatures in dry steam rooms, preparing the body for a vigorous polish using the kessa mitt. This is usually administered by a therapist whilst laying on a hot marble stone. The recipient will then be rinsed off with cool water and today, many Hammam spas provide lavish treatments and massages alongside this.
We at Casa Spa, base all treatments on these historical traditions giving you an authentic Moroccan experience you won’t forget. We promise you will leave our spa feeling revitalised and nourished. We have an abundance of spa packages at exceptional rates, meaning you can visit as often as you would like.