Centuries-old bathhouse designated as national heritage 

July 16, 2021 - 21:48

TEHRAN - Hammam-e Haj Lotf-Ali, a Qajar-era (1789-1925) public bathhouse in northeast Iran, has recently been added to the national heritage list. 

Located in the city of Feizabad, Khorasan Razavi province, the bathhouse was constructed next to a caravanserai upon the orders of Haj Lotf-Ali, who was an elite of the city, to bring comfort to the natives and travelers, deputy provincial tourism chief Marjan Akbari has said. 

A restoration project is currently underway on the historical structure, which has been endowed by its builder; ISNA quoted Akbari as saying on Thursday. 

The project, which is being carried out by Feizabad Municipality aims at repairing and renovating the bathhouse and repurposing it to a cultural center, the official added. 

The public bathhouse was in use until 2013, she noted. 

Over the years, the 230 square meters public bathhouse has undergone many changes. There is a staircase that leads to the footpath and an area of about 45 square meters with a cruciform plan as the entrance space. Additionally, there is a rest area and a prayer room, and the main area is covered with a dome and a multiplicative arch.

Bathhouses or ‘hammams’ are of great significance in popular Iranian culture. They were not only places for bathing and cleaning up. They also had a social concept for people who gathered at these places weekly.

It was a place where people talked with each other about their daily life and shared humor and news. There are still bathhouses in Iranian cities but they do not have their social function anymore since most people have bathrooms in their homes due to the modern lifestyle.

Some cities had separate bathhouses for men and women. They were usually built next to each other. However, there were some bathhouses, which were used by men and women at different times of the day.

There were also male and female public bathhouses; at daybreak, a longhorn (booq-e javaz) was blown to announce that the bath was ready. Men came to the baths from daybreak till the afternoon. Women could use the bathhouses from then to sunset. In some cases, five days were allocated to men and two days to women.

Persian literature is full of proverbs, narrations, and folk stories about bathhouses, which indicate the importance of the place in the past time.

The capital city of Mashhad is home to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS), the eighth Shia Imam, which attracts thousands of pilgrims from various Iranian cities, neighboring countries, and even across the globe. 

Dozens of five-star hotels and hostels are dotted around the holy shrine. The metropolis has the highest concentration of water parks in the country, and it also embraces a variety of cultural and historical sites that are generally crowded.