Turkish Bath Garden, Old City of Akko (Acre), Israel
Down at the end of Al-Jezzar Street, just around the corner, is the Municipal Museum, originally the hammam, or Turkish bath, built by Ahmed al Jezzar Pasha as part of his mosque complex in the 1780s. The museum's collections, including antiquities, an exhibit on Napoleon's attack, the Museum of Heroism, and a folklore exhibit are often closed as the building undergoes repairs, but the building itself is fantastic. Visiting art exhibitions are also displayed here.
Turkish baths were modeled after the Roman plan, with three distinct rooms. The first was the entry and dressing room, the next was the tepidarium (its Roman name), with warm steam, and the last was the caldarium, with hot steam. The hot room was always the most ornate.
As you walk through the first two rooms, note the tiny glass skylights in the domes. The third room, the one for hot steam, is rich in marble and mosaic work. In the center is a circular platform for steam bathing. The heat source was beneath it. Some Turkish baths have a small swimming pool here instead. Four private steam cubicles occupy the four points of the compass.
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Text by Steve Smith.