Hammams first came to Nablus and the surrounding regions during the period of Roman rule. The Roman custom of bathing in warm water was adopted by the Arabs and grew in popularity throughout the reign of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a major part of Nablus’s social life revolved around its public baths. Nowadays, however, there are only two functioning hammams in the city.
Hammam esh-Shifa was built in 1624 by the local and powerful Tuqan family. Over the years, most of its original features have been preserved: the hammam is still characterized by its original massive stone walls and domes filtering sunlight through small round openings filled with multicolored glass. Stepping into the Hammam esh-Shifa feels a bit like a travel back in time to the days when the hammams played central roles in local social life.
This bath house is located in the heart of Nablus’s Old City on al-Nasir Street.
Hammam al-Hana (es-Sumara)
Some claim that the Hana hammam, which is also known as the Bath of Samaritans (es-Sumara), is 1000 years old; historians have concluded with relative certainty, however, that it was actually the last public bath built in Nablus. The exact year of its construction is unknown. Records do show that it was closed in 1928, restored in 1994, and reopened one year later.
This bath house is located in the al-Yasmina quarter of the Old City, next to a famous spice shop.
Each of the baths has a special entrance room where visitors may have an interesting chat with the locals over a cup of tea or coffee and the smoke of an aromatic argile (water pipe). The service of a hammam can be extended to include time in a sauna and a massage.