Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Getting Naked in Damascus - My Experience at Hammam Ammoonah

On our last day in Damascus, Audrey and I went to Hammam Ammoonah in the Old City of Damascus for some … well ... I'll tell you shortly.

Looking for the hammam was a test of our navigation skills as the map was insufficient to pilot our way through the confusing lanes in the souk. Moreover Hammam Ammoonah is located in a secluded lane with no signboards at all. The entrance is hidden behind a pink striped curtain.

We managed to locate it thanks to a guy who pointed it out. Otherwise we would have walked right past it and I won’t be telling you this story.


Entrance to Hammam Ammoonah looks like an entrance to a whore house, no?


When we entered the hammam, the lady in-charge welcomed us and answered our questions. She was dressed in a spaghetti strap top with a pair of black bikini and loincloth (cawat).

We took the package that consists of the sauna, body and leg scrub and massage thats costs 850 Syrian Pounds.

After locking our stuff in a drawer in the lobby area and strapping the key to my wrist, we were given a towel to change into. Initially I wanted to keep on my bra and panties on, but decided otherwise cause I know I’ll end up getting completely drenched in there. So I had on my disposable panties and left my bra in the drawer.

Then we were led into the bathing area which is essentially a common room with huge basins built into the wall containing warm water. Everything was wet and the atmosphere was steamy.

Without saying a word, the lady boss yanked off my towel and asked me to sit on the floor with the rest of the naked and semi-naked ladies. She poured a bucket of warm water over my head and told me to go into the sauna room where Audrey and two other ladies were already there.

That was my first experience of being exposed in public, or in a hammam at least. There was no room for being shy as most of us were clad only in our panties. Sitting in the sauna, I wonder whether women secretly check out each other’s boob size, just like how men check out each other’s you know what.

After about 10 minutes of oozing out toxins from our pores, one by one we were led out to another part of the bathing area where a burly lady was waiting to scrub us. She looked like a contestant from the WWF – WWF as in Women’s Wrestling Federation, and not the wildlife organization. Imagine the strength and power in those arms!

I was asked to lie down on the floor (!) and using a loofah, she scrubbed away really hard, asking me to lift my arms and to turn over after doing one side so that she could get to every spot on my body. It was probably the mother of all scrubs, but I was happy to see the black dirt and grime being scrubbed away.

There were a few other bathers who were getting scrubbed and massaged in the area. And the scrubbers and masseuses sang together in Arabic as their work their magic on the bathers. It was a pleasant sound that added to the warm temperature of the hammam.

After the scrub session, I was given a loofah, shampoo and a bar of soup in a white plastic container and told to return to the first area to wash away all the dirt that has been scrubbed off.

It was difficult bathing with panties on. So I removed them, faced the wall and bathe away in the nude. Who cares if other women were watching ;-) After finishing, I put them back on, sat on the floor and waited for the massage session.

Now, the massage session is nothing like the super relaxing Indonesian or Thai massages. This massage consists of merely rubbing oil all over the body with occasional applying of pressure on certain points. And that’s about it.

And then it was back to the bathing area to wash away the oil and we could then change back into our clothes and relax with a hot cup of tea in the lobby, compliments from Hammam Ammoonah.


Girl in towel must be saying, "Quickly hide, crazy tourists snapping photos of naked women! "



Ceiling in the lobby area.


A fellow traveller whom we met in Amman commented that the experience sounded like how prisoners are being treated in prison, and I think she may be right :-) But going to Hammam Ammoonah was indeed a one in a million experience which I'll gladly do again. After all, we all want soft and dirt free skin. And being naked in public could be liberating as well.


About Hammam Ammoonah

Hammam Ammoonah was built in the 12th Century AD and was it was classified amongst the cleanest public baths in the city of Damascus during the Ottoman period. However, it was probably neglected during later periods.

The owners of this hammam fully restored and renovated this historical place to provide bathers with an authentic bathing experience. Hammam Ammoonah was formerly known as “Hammam Shojaa” until the late 18th Century when it was renamed as its current name.

Address:

Damascus – Syria – Baghdad Street
Behind Al Dahdah – Bawabet Al Aass
Tel: +963 11 23 16 414

Opens daily from 8.00am – 8.00pm

4 comments:

khengsiong said...

You probably want to try the 'mixed' onsen (hot spring) in Japan...

juphelia said...

I agree. You should probably try the onsen in Japan. In the hot spring baths in Japan and Korea, the people who enter has to be totally naked, without any form of underwear whatsoever.

There are mixed ones, but most of the onsens have a separate men and women's section to "protect your modesty".

Julie Lim said...

Kheng Siong,

I don't think I have the guts to get naked in front of more than one guy at the same time. One guy ok lah, hahaha.

Julie Lim said...

Juphelia,

I think I'll go for the women's onsen since I don't have enough guts for the mixed one. Well, let's see if I get to go to Japan one day.

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