Century-old public baths take on the glory of yesteryear

TEHRAN – Mohammad Beig, a Zand-era (1750-1794) public bathhouse in Khoy, the northwestern province of West Azerbaijan, has been restored, the provincial tourism chief has said.

The project consisted of repairing the tiles as well as reinforcing the walls of the historic structure, Jalil Jabbari announced Thursday.

In the coming months, however, more rehabilitation work is needed on the public baths, the official added.

The public baths are part of the historic Khoy bazaar, he noted.

Public baths or “hammams” in Iran were not only places for bathing and cleaning. They had a social concept for the people who gathered at these places every week.

It was a place where people talked about their daily lives and shared humor and news. There are still public baths in Iranian cities but they no longer have their social function since most people have bathrooms in their homes due to the modern way of life.

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

There were also public baths for men and women; at dawn, a longhorn (booq-e javaz) was blown to announce that the bath was ready. The men came to the baths from daybreak until afternoon. Women could use the public baths until sunset. In some cases, five days have been allocated for men and two days for women.

Persian literature is full of proverbs, tales and popular stories about public baths, which indicate the importance of the place in the past.

West Azerbaijan includes a variety of lush natural landscapes, cultural heritage sites and museums, including the UNESCO sites of Takht-e Soleyman and Qareh Klise (Monastery of Saint Thaddeus), Teppe Hasanlu and the Citadel in ruin of Bastam.

The region was home to several ancient civilizations. According to Britannica, it was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC and was named Atropatene after one of Alexander’s generals, Atropates, who established a small kingdom there. Ultimately, the region returned to Persian (Iranian) rule under the Sassanids in the 3rd century CE.


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