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Unwind Like Royalty: Cordoba’s Arab Bath Experience You Can’t Miss

Luxuriate in the Arab baths in Cordoba. Sip mint tea and enjoy the sybaritic pleasures experienced by the Caliph during the 10th century.

By Nick Nutter | Updated 9 Jul 2024 | Córdoba | Places To Go | Login to add to YOUR Favourites Favourites Icon or Read Later

This article has been visited 14,010 times Bayt al-wastany Bayt al-wastany

Bayt al-wastany

Introduction to Arab Baths

Sip mint tea and enjoy the sybaritic pleasures experienced by the Caliph during the 10th century. Luxuriate in the Arab baths of Al Andalus. Have your body perfumed with exotic oils and relax under the expert hands of your personal masseur.

The Baths in the 10th Century

Recepcion area Recepcion area

Recepcion area

At its height, during the 10th century AD, Cordoba had over 500,000 inhabitants and they all, from Caliph to slave, demanded access to bath houses.

To cater for the population, there were 300 in the city ranging from very simple affairs with little or no decoration to those enjoyed by the Caliph and his close family and advisors. The Caliphate world was very socially structured with every person knowing their place and that extended to bathing.

No matter what your station though, the bath house was where you could meet associates, have a game of chess and generally relax. If you could afford it, there was mint tea to refresh and a massage to relax.

In Cordoba, the Banos del Alcazar Califal have been preserved.

During the Caliphate, the baths could be accessed directly from the Alcazar, the formal royal gardens. The baths were used by the Caliph, his family and guests. Formal ceremonies were held there as were political gatherings.

Unlike the Romans, the Arabs tended to avoid total immersion in water and relied on steam, sweating and massage to keep clean.

The cleaning ritual was a progression from one room to another. First they would enter the cold room, the Bayt al Barid, where basins of cold water were available. Then would come the warm room, the Bayt al-Wastany. This room would have a bath but that would mainly be used for therapeutic reasons by the sick.

Finally the Bayt al-Sajun, the hot room, which resembled a Turkish bath in atmosphere, that is steamy hot, although the technology was slightly different. There would be a bath full of hot water and, adjoining that, there was a shower. A large bronze boiler fed hot water through pipes in the floor and walls keeping the surfaces hot as well as the water.

It was in the warm room that most of the action took place. Here, the Caliph would perform his daily ablutions, shaving, hairdressing, a massage and dressing. It was in this room that the Caliph held court.

The whole complex was richly decorated with candy striped columns supporting elaborate arches with murals on the walls and geometric shapes cut through the roof that allowed light to pierce the steam. Leaded lights in strong colours prevented the rain from entering the skylights and added yet another element to the experience.

Arab Baths in Cordoba in the 21st Century

Courtyard Courtyard

Courtyard

In the city, there are still a couple of bath houses that allow you to immerse yourself in history. To allow for more western habits, the style has been changed a little but the sybaritic pleasure is the same.

First, you are greeted as you enter a reception room. Mint tea is served before you are taken to the changing rooms. Here, you take a shower before entering the Bayt al Barid.

There are two baths here, both full of frigidly cold water. One is the size of a large domestic bath but a little deeper, the other is somewhat larger but shallow. In this room, you choose the oil with which you would like to be massaged: lavender, orange blossom, red amber or jasmine.

The Bayt al-Wastany

Bayt al-sajun Bayt al-sajun

Bayt al-sajun

The Bayt al-Wastany contains a large bath, perhaps 1 metre deep. Around the perimeter is a step to allow you to sit up to your neck in the pleasantly hot water. In this position, you will notice the decorated tiles and the geometric skylights above. At one end of the room, massage tables await.

More mint tea is served.

Marbled Columns Lead you to the Bayt al-Sajun

Marbled Columns lead you to the Bayt al-Sajun Marbled Columns lead you to the Bayt al-Sajun

Marbled Columns lead you to the Bayt al-Sajun

Then we enter the Bayt al-Sajun. A small pool the size of a large domestic bath is full of near scalding hot water and a door leads through to a Turkish bath.

The idea is to stimulate yourself in the cold water, then relax in the warm water and follow that with a session in the Turkish bath, in the hot water pool, or both, before a massage relaxes every muscle in your body.

The actual succession of cold, warm and hot is up to you. Some people avoid the cold altogether and just alternate between warm and hot.

Treat yourself, be a Caliph for the day, or his concubine.

How to Book an Arab Bath Experience in Cordoba

Relaxing in an Arab bath is a popular experience so it's a good idea to make a reservation in advance. Slots are limited to preserve the tranquil atmosphere at the baths.

Check availability for your visit date here:

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Other Hammams in Andalucia You Can Try

Cordoba isn't the only city with Arab baths. You can also get an Arab bath experience in other major cities in Andalucia:



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