Books and handbooks

Hammam Rehabilitation Reader, 2011. (Eds.) Heidi Dumreicher, Richard S. Levine, Magda Sibley-Behloul. Publisher: Sonderzahl, 2012, Austria. ISBN: 978-3-85449-382-2


Sibley, M. 2008. “Special Issue on Traditional Public Baths-Hammāms-in the Mediterranean“. ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, Volume 2, Issue 3

Abstract: This special issue on hammāms in the Mediterranean addresses a research subject that has been far too long neglected. Commonly known as “Turkish baths”, hammāms, or public bathhouses, were important facilities in Islamic cities. Although the institution fl ourished and spread over a large geographic area under the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic bath is not of Turkish origin. The hammām as a building evolved from the Roman and Byzantine public bath houses and has been adapted to suit the washing requirements of Islam. Located near mosques, souks and residential centres, hammāms played a key role not only in providing a washing facility for the conduct of major ablutions necessary before praying but also a venue for social interaction and rituals, marking religious celebrations and major events in the life of women. The hammām, in the European imagination, remains a utopian space as depicted in Orientalists’ paintings. A large central pool is a recurrent feature in paintings such as “After the bath” by Rudolf Ernest, “Bathing in the Serglio” by Theodor Chasseriau, “Steam Bath”, the “Great Bath” and “Nargileh Lighter” by Jean Leon Gerome. Yet large pools are a rare feature in hammāms and, when available, they are much smaller and do not occupy a central position in the spaces. Indeed, the transition from the roman bath to the Islamic one meant that large cold water pools disappeared completely. Small hot water plunge pools are consistently found in the historic hammāms of Cairo because of their role in heating the spaces. This is because the under-fl oor heating system (the hypocaust system of the Roman baths) was abandoned in the hammams of Egypt. Small plunge pools were also found in the hammāms of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. In all these cases, each plunge pool is located in a secondary room and not in the main space.


Sibley, M. 2018. “Let There Be Light! Investigating Vernacular Daylighting in Moroccan Heritage Hammams for Rehabilitation, Benchmarking and Energy Saving“. Sustainability,  10, 3984 (Open Access)

Abstract: This paper provides the first study of vernacular daylighting provision in Moroccan heritage public bathhouses in order to rehabilitate it for experiential authenticity, energy saving and improved users’ well-being. The analysis of a representative sample of 13 still working hammams reveals recurrent patterns of oculi numbers and configurations. These consist of one to three rows of eight circular roof openings (oculi) of 18 to 20 cm diameter, arranged along the roof vault of each bathing space. The ratio of total roof openings’ area to internal floor area rarely exceeds 2%. Synchronised measurements of horizontal illuminance on the roof and inside the bathing spaces in a case study hammam were conducted in July and August 2016, after rehabilitating all roof oculi. Recorded levels indicated that maximum horizontal illuminance never exceeds 60 lx. The calculation and plotting of daylight factor based on real data reveal levels under 2% and a sudden decline in the hot room early afternoon due to steam accumulation. The paper provides the first benchmark of vernacular daylight rehabilitation in Moroccan heritage hammams and the illuminance it affords. It introduces an innovative combination of historical, architectural and building science methodologies that can be extended to other heritage building types.

Sibley, M. & Sibley, M. 2015. “Hybrid Transitions: Combining Biomass and Solar Energy for Water Heating in Public Bathhouses“. Energy Procedia 83, Pages 525 – 532

Abstract: This paper presents and evaluates initiatives taken in Morocco to reduce wood consumption, improve energy efficiency and reduce deforestation due to the operation of hammams (Turkish baths). First, the paper examines the vernacular energy systems used in heritage hammams and their lessons of sustainability. Second, it presents the problems associated with the new hammam furnaces and how they replicate vernacular systems. Third, the various initiatives for more energy efficient systems are presented. These include hybrid solar/biomass hammam systems. The paper evaluates the opportunities for addressing local and global concerns over deforestation and CO2 emissions and discusses various difficulties and challenges.

Sibley, M. & Sibley, M. 2013. “Hybrid Green Technologies for Retrofitting Heritage Buildings in North African Medinas: Combining Vernacular and High-tech Solutions for an Innovative Solar Powered Lighting System for Hammam Buildings“. Energy Procedia. Volume 42, Pages 718-725

Abstract: This paper details a newly developed prototype which combines three functions: day-lighting, solar powered LED lighting and natural ventilation for the public bathhouses (known as hammams) of the heritage cities of North Africa. The prototype was developed as a result of an extensive architectural survey of 67 surviving historic baths in North African cities, during which a common problem of poor natural lighting and ventilation as well as inadequate electric lighting was identified. Combining the vernacular element of hammam day-lighting with solar powered night-lighting, the prototype was developed between August 2012 and March 2013 as part of a research project funded by Manchester University. Tests have been carried out on the roof of two hammams located in Fez, Morocco: hammams Seffarine (currently being rehabilitated) and Moulay Idriss (functioning). Results show that the prototype dramatically improves the day-lighting qualities in the bathing spaces and provides for up to 8 hours of continuous night solar powered electric lighting. Positive feedback has been received from the users and the manager of hammam Moulay Idriss on demonstrating the prototype. The paper argues that the combination of a vernacular element with an affordable high-tech solution results in an innovative hybrid system that is user friendly, and sensitive to heritage buildings. Such a solution can act as a “green catalyst” by its adoption in the 4000 traditional Moroccan hammams. As these hammams continue to provide a facility for the population living inside the medinas, the adoption of this design will not only contribute to reducing energy consumption and using renewable sources of energy but will also help to sustain a traditional social and cultural practice which has supported the health and well-being of the population for many centuries.

Sibley, M., Jackson, I. 2012. “The architecture of Islamic public baths of North Africa and the Middle East: An analysis of their internal spatial configurations“. Architectural Research Quarterly. Volume 16, Issue 2, Pages 155 – 170

Abstract: The hammams (or Islamic bath-houses), commonly known as ‘Turkish baths’, are one of the key urban facilities in Islamic cities. They evolved from the Roman and Byzantine public baths, as these were assimilated when the Umayyad dynasty conquered Byzantine territories in the Middle East between AD 661 and 750. Early hammams were built in the eighth century by the Umayyad rulers who established their capital in Damascus. The most famous ones are Qusayr Amra, in today’s north-eastern desert of Jordan and Khirbat al Mafjar. The period following the rise of Islam witnessed a rapid development in the architecture of baths and the change from Roman to Islamic bathing habits. Public Roman baths consisted of very large establishments, the thermae, which comprised not only bathing facilities but also recreational ones such as libraries, gymnasiums, exercise grounds and gardens, tanning rooms, ball courts and concert halls. The balnea were the smaller privately or publicly owned Roman baths, located in greater number within the city.

Sibley, M., and Fadli, F. 2008. “The Surviving Historic Hammams of the Medina of Tripoli – Libya: Tangible and Intangible Dimensions“, ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, Volume 2, Issue 3

Abstract: Unlike the other medinas in the Arab-Islamic world, the medina of Tripoli (capital city of Libya), has never had many historic public baths. This is probably due to a more conservative tradition where most of the Libyan women use the hammām only once, as part of their pre-wedding preparation and celebration. This paper presents an analysis of the three and only remaining hammāms of Tripoli and the way they are used and perceived today. Based on the results of a survey conducted by the authors in July 2008 (as part of an AHRC funded research project on the historic hammāms of North Africa) the architectural characteristics of these historic structures are presented along with their increasing usage by a cosmopolitan population (Tunisians, Moroccans and Sudanese) living inside the medina. This paper also outlines a number of guidelines for the sustainable use and adaptation of the hammām within the Libyan context.

Fadli, F., Sibley, M. 2008. “The Historic Hammams of Cairo“. Journal of Architectural Conservation. Volume 14, Issue 3, Pages 59-80

Abstract: Hammāms (Islamic bathhouses) were key buildings in the Islamic city. Despite their large number and importance within the urban fabric of historic Islamic cities, they have rarely attracted much attention either from the academic community or from organizations dealing with the conservation and restoration of historic buildings. Studies of these buildings are scarce and rare. The future survival of the remaining ones is a real challenge to those concerned about the preservation of historic buildings. Based on a survey of the remaining bathhouses of Cairo, carried out by the authors in June 2007 as part of a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), this paper describes the hammāms of Cairo and highlights the lack of a strategy for their restoration. It focuses on the problems facing their safeguard; from selection and listing, to the lengthy process of restoration and the lack of expertise in restoration techniques. The paper finally concludes by proposing guidelines to help achieve a sustainable adaptive re-use of these buildings.

Sibley, M. 2007. “The pre-Ottoman public baths of Damascus and their survival into the 21st century: An analytical survey“. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. Volume 24, Issue 4, Pages 271-288

Abstract: Public baths, or hammâms, are key facilities in Islamic cities as they form part of the triad of essential urban facilities – the mosque, the hammâm, and the suq. They not only facilitate the accomplishment of the great ablutions that are necessary prior to praying (hence their location near mosques) but also play an important social function as they serve as a meeting place for both male and female members of society. The hammân, as an institution, has been in decline since the 19th century as modern bathroom facilities have been introduced in new housing projects. Across the Arab world, historic hammâms have closed, fallen into disrepair, or been completely removed. The rate at which evidence of this important building type is being removed is alarming, resulting in the loss of a rich and irreplaceable tangible and intangible heritage. Based on a survey carried out by the author in 2004 as part of a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board in the U.K., this paper establishes a clear picture of the number, location, and state of the surviving historic hammâms in Damascus. A detailed analysis of the architectural evolution (between the 12th and 18th centuries) of the historic public baths of Damascus is presented in order to highlight the historical relevance of those that have managed to survive until today. The paper describes the current practices and usages of these structures, as well as the various transformations and adaptations that have been carried out. A number of recommendations are made for the safeguarding and the adaptive reuse of this important cultural heritage building in order to meet the requirements of contemporary life.

Conference papers

Fadli, F., Sibley, M. 2009. “Hammãms of North Africa: An architectural study of sustainability concepts in a historical traditional building“. PLEA 2009 – Architecture Energy and the Occupant’s Perspective: Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on Passive and Low Energy Architecture, Quebec City, Canada, 22-24 June 2009

Abstract: The hammãm or Islamic public bath is a traditional building type and an important architectural and urban entity of the city (médina) in the Mediterranean Islamic world. Based on recent surveys carried out by the authors on the public baths of Cairo, Tunis, Tripoli (Libya) and Marrakech; as part of an AHRC funded project, this paper investigates the ingenious architecture of the hammãm and explores the passive design devices used in this traditional building and their influence on the spatial indoor ambiences. A set of four environmental sustainability indicators (representing the four natural -classical- elements) is adopted as a matrix based method, in order to explore and learn the sustainability concepts used and existing in the architectural typologies and characteristics of this specific building type. It finally concludes by proposing a set of design guidelines, which would help sustain historic structures in the future. The guidelines drawn upon the sustainability concepts learnt from this historic building can also be adapted to newly built structures.

Fadli, F., Sibley, M. 2008. “The Restoration of Hammams in Cairo: How sustainable is it?” Proceedings of the 2008 International Heritage Conference: World Heritage & Sustainable Development, Vila Nova de Foz Coa, Portugal, 7-9 May 2008

Abstract: Hammāms (Islamic Bathhouses) were key-buildings in the Islamic city. However, more than hundred years ago their importance has decreased and their decay started. Today, unless a clear restoration strategy is adopted, this important architectural heritage of the Islamic city will disappear. Based on a survey of the surviving historic hammams of Cairo, carried out by the authors in June 2007, as part of a research project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), this paper highlights the lack of strategies for the restoration of historic hammāms in Cairo. It focuses on the problems facing their safeguard; from selection and listing by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), to the lengthy slow process of restoration and the lack of expertise in restoration techniques. The paper finally discusses how sustainable is the restoration of Cairene hammams and concludes by proposing a set of guidelines to help achieve an optimum of sustainability for their future adaptive re-use.

Sibley, M. 2006. “The historic Hammāms of Damascus and Fez: Lessons of sustainability and future developments.” Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Passive and Low Energy Architecture, Geneva; Switzerland, 6-8 September 2006, Pages 181-186

Abstract: The public bath, or hammām, is a building type which has been integral to the urban fabric of Islamic cities. Whereas other building types have attracted much attention and research in the past, studies of hammām buildings have remained scarce and far apart. Based on surveys carried by the author on the historic public baths of Damascus and Fez, this paper highlights the characteristics of this building type as a sustainable urban facility which not only promotes cleanliness and health of the urban dwellers but also social interaction and a support for a rich intangible heritage. The paper also highlights the lessons that this building type provides in terms of thermal comfort, under-floor heating system, water heating and management and recycling of byproducts from local small industries.  The paper then discusses possible future adaptive re-use of this building type in the light of Sustainable Development Agenda.