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Al-Andalus, the Route of the " hammams "

THE RITUAL OF THE WATER

The hammams were praised by poets, artists, sculptors, etc that found in the water a closest and mysterious element. But nothing comparable to Ibn Zamrak's beautiful verses, perpetuated in the walls of the Alhambra. While we go toward this monument to the nature, the Generalife, the poet of the Alhambra explains us the meaning of the purifying water, ready for the namaz or muslim pray that must be complete five times a day, accompanied by an "small ablution", the partial washing of hands, arms up to the elbow, face, feet and a fourth part of the head. The water as ritual: the "great ablution" that requires the complete bath, with the prescriptions relative to the corporal toilet related to the absortion and the religious meditation.

The hammam is a habit of hygiene that put behind the purification rites dictated by the Koran. Even through the study of the architecture and the literature we observe the way the Arab baths has surrendered to the seduction of the naked bodies in contact with the voluptuous waters, as it was habitual in the thermal baths of their predecessors: Greek, Roman and Byzantine. It is also surrounded by a group of elements such as bath rooms, niches, lattices and other complements such as pharmacopeia jars, domes, perfumeries. Does it break up with the tradition or jumps the prohibited?.

Evidently the hammams were considered as places that provided the hygiene that didn't exist in the housings but also, what has been a characteristic of all the baths due to be meeting places, they were true sources of exchange of ideas and social discussion, politics and cultural. The baths like generators of ideas disappear, and in the XV century an irreversible decline begins. The arab baths used to have a similar structures among them, and similar to that of the baths of other cultures, but with the architecture characteristic of each civilization.

One can say that the hammam is known as a place of rest where the dimness helps to create a magic climate motivated by the environmental vapor and the hammam is much more humid than the finnish sauna with its dry heat. Although the temperature of this bath of steam is about 55 degrees, the humidity makes the person to feel most intensely the heat since the water is much more conductive of heat than the air. The hammam is relaxing and analgesic, decongest the respiratory tracks and clean the skin.

How to use a hammam? Let us say that it has its own ritual. Its rules. Its seduction. It is necessary to enter wet and during the hammam sessions we have to drink plenty of water.

We arrive to the Generalife, the end of the first stage in the itinerary. This rustic village surrounded by orchards and gardens were the summer residence of the kings. From this place we get a wonderful environment, the Albaycin, the Alhambra, the Vega and Sierra Nevada.

When entering in the Patio de La Acequia we feel delighted by the scent of the select flowers and the chirping of the water. For us it is like the awakening of the senses through the water. The visir and always poet, evokes with his verses, the noise of the fountains whispering: Granada is a groom whose crown and whose jewels and vestments are flowers, the tunic is the Generalife..." (I.Zamrak).


 
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