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    Baños Arabes (The Arab Baths)

    September 27, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    These baths were built in the 11th or 12th centuries. Their functioning parts vanished centuries ago, but the underground chambers have been partly renovated. Ronda’s Arab Baths are similar to Roman baths, except that steam was used to sweat out pollutants from the body, rather than soaking in hot water, as the Romans used to do. Religious traditions were important to he Moors of Spain we, so A Mosque was located next to the baths. The idea was that the people visiting the Baths would purify and cleanse their bodies, before entering the Mosque to purify their souls.

    The main entrance to the complex overlooks the roof of Arab Baths building, and you can see a number of short humps embedded in the roof. These are the star shaped skylights which let the light in. It looks quite cool when you are inside. The baths were built partially underground to better control the temperature of the building. Hot fires in the furnace room heated water coming from an aqueduct, and the hot steam was then “piped” under the floor of the rooms in terracotta channels (atanores), and then exited from chimneys located before it reached the cold rooms.

    The first section of the Baths was the changing room (the al-bayt al-maslaj). It had a central pool about two and a half metres across, with a series of brick arches surrounding it. The pool itself was a drinking fountain, and not a bath as we might think. Around the edges of this room were wooden benches for chatting and socialising, and against the back wall a series of screens that formed changing rooms. There was also a cold room (al-bayt al-barid), where people could relax and cool down before entering the warm and hot rooms. Part of the tradition of these baths was to spend several hours here, and cleansing the body several times over.

    Next was the warm room (al-bayt al-wastami), which was where people could relax and enjoy a massage, be pampered with perfumes, or sit in a pool of slightly warm water. This room was warm but not steamy. Mats and cushions were available to use, as well as wooden benches around the walls, and several tables for massage and therapeutic treatments by trained slaves were situated next to some of the columns. The hot room (al-bayt al-sajun), was the last room. This room has a pool at one end where water from the aqueduct was splashed over the hot floor creating a very humid and steamy atmosphere in the room.
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