The Arabic Bath

Damascus Travel Blog

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Today we went to an Arabic bath (essentially a Turkish bath but since it is in Syria it's Arabic?)

We walked in and they told us to take off our clothes and change into towels. They gave us plastic bowls with shampoo, a bar of soap, and some sort of clump of strings used for scrubbing.

The bath had several large rooms with stone bowls close to the ground, each one with two faucets, -- very hot and very cold. The entire bath area was filled with steam and you could barely see a few feet in front of you. We filled up the plastic bowls and ran around splashing each other with cold water. I got a hit of water directly in the face and almost lost my contacts.

We went into another room where large men wore exfoliating mitts on their hands and people took turns getting scrubbed by them. I thought this would be weird but surprisingly it was not. After that a man massaged me (back, front, legs and arms) cracked my back and when I sat up, took my head in his hands and twisted it like he was trying to break my neck, cracking it to both the left and the right. Again, very gay sounding when I write it but the experience was unexplainably manly.

Then we took a shower and sat in a steam sauna which was unbearable for more than a few minutes. I felt like my skin was coming to a boil. Afterwards I took a cold shower and then we were wrapped in two dry towels.

We went back into the main room where another man came by, removed our dry towels and wrapped us in another towel, put another one around our shoulders and wrapped one around our heads and gave us each a blanket. Then another man brought us water and tea. I was so unspeakably comfortable I could only look around at my surroundings and relish in how relaxed I was.

Afterwards we ate sandwiches, salads, and beans from a streetside vendor.

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photo by: Biedjee