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The architecture of Islamic public baths of North Africa and the Middle East: an analysis of their internal spatial configurations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 November 2012

Magda Sibley
Manchester Architecture Research Centre (marc), The University of Manchester School of Environment and Development, Humanities Bridgeford Street, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL,
Iain Jackson
Liverpool School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, Abercromby Square, Liverpool L69 7ZP,


The hammams (or Islamic bath-houses), commonly known as ‘Turkish baths’, are one of the key urban facilities in Islamic cities. They evolved from the Roman and Byzantine public baths, as these were assimilated when the Umayyad dynasty conquered Byzantine territories in the Middle East between AD 661 and 750. Early hammams were built in the eighth century by the Umayyad rulers who established their capital in Damascus. The most famous ones are Qusayr Amra, in today's north-eastern desert of Jordan and Khirbat al Mafjar. The period following the rise of Islam witnessed a rapid development in the architecture of baths and the change from Roman to Islamic bathing habits. Public Roman baths consisted of very large establishments, the thermae, which comprised not only bathing facilities but also recreational ones such as libraries, gymnasiums, exercise grounds and gardens, tanning rooms, ball courts and concert halls. The balnea were the smaller privately or publicly owned Roman baths, located in greater number within the city.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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