The Turkish bath (Turkish: hamam; from Arabic: حمّام, ḥammām) is the Middle Eastern variant of a steam bath, which can be categorized as a wet relative of the sauna. The Turkish baths have played an important role in cultures of the Middle-East, serving as places of social gathering, ritual cleansing, and as architectural structures, institutions, and (later) elements with special customs attached to them.
Here is an ancient hammam at Krac des Chevaliers near Homs (about 2 hours from Damascus)
Twice we went to currently-operating hammams in Old Damascus. Samer would ask if it were okay for us to come in since it was men's hours and I didn't exactly qualify, and both times the operators welcomed us to come inside and take photos. Samer often used the magic phrase: they came all the way from America, and we were welcomed so graciously. Here is one hammam located in the souq.
Since this was man time and men were loitering around after their relaxing baths, I didn't look around too much. But since the operators seemed to expect and welcome my taking pictures, I took a few of harmless things like the decoration
and the ceiling. In this particular hammam, the workers were so friendly, they started pouring us cups of tea! It was a very hospitable gesture, but I felt funny enough barging into a hammam with only men present plus taking pictures, that I declined for my group. I was too embarrassed to stand there and sip a hot drink.
This was another hammam we visited in Old Damascus.
Another ceiling picture
and one of this decorative table.
I got this next picture off Flickr because I wanted you to see men relaxing after their baths. This is basically what I saw when entering the hammams and why I did not want to loiter. No one was indecent, but I did try to be sensitive to the fact that I was the only female in the place and these guys were trying to relax. I guess.
A person taking a Turkish bath first relaxes in a room (known as the warm room) that is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air allowing the bather to perspire freely. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room (known as the hot room) before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and receiving a massage, bathers finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation. (Source Wikipedia)
Pictures from Damascus and Homs, Syria