138. Bano de la Mezquita (The Mosque Baths)

The Alhambra is a sprawling complex built onto a mountainous terrain, making it wise, necessary even, to set aside at least half a day to explore.

There are several sections: Generalife, Nasrid Palaces, Alcazaba and Charles V Palace. The order in which you visit the parts depends on the time slot you’ve been allocated to enter the Nasrid Palaces. According to my prior research, the ideal order is to visit the Generalife first, followed by Charles V Palace, then the Alcazaba and ending with the Nasrid Palaces. I didn’t follow this order since I arrived at 3pm and my entrance to the Nasrid Palaces was due at 5pm.

From the entrance, I crossed the bridge connecting the Generalife and Upper Alhambra, entering the Alhambra proper.

The first place I explored was the Bano de la Mezquita, or the Mosque Baths.

Water everywhere! 🙂

Mosque baths, or hammams, is one of the most characteristic elements of Islamic culture and an outstanding feature of its customs. It reflects directly the importance of cleanliness and purity in Islam. Hammams are not only the place to take the ablution before prayers but also a place to gather and socialise.

I was initially quite surprised to see the state the hammam was in. It felt a bit too dilapidated compared to the rest of the complex (that was open to the public) which has already been restored.

It was only after I went to see the other parts of the Alhambra did I appreciate the hammam, for it shows the extent of restoration that had been put in place to bring the Alhambra back to its former glory. Centuries of neglect does take a toll on monuments, something that easily slides over a visitors’ head when the only things they see are the restored parts.

As I walked through the hammam, I could sense its old age as it whimpered amongst its other majestic neighbours which have been given new life.

But in a way it retains its dignity, its preservation of self. It is without doubt that restoration is often clouded by the present day’s sense of style and techniques, a fate that has fallen upon its neighbours.

It is only through the visitor’s mind that this hammam gets to go back to its former glory, as the visitor tries to piece together what’s left and imagine how it was in its hey days. My mind was definitely having a field day here! 🙂

I guess a reason why the hammam has been left pretty much as it is, is that it has no functional significance other than being a memento of the past.

It used to serve the mosque beside it but since the mosque has been converted… There isn’t really much use for it, is it?

And yup, you read that right. The mosque was converted, unsuprisingly.

Right beside the hammam, what used to be the mosque has now been converted into the church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra.

What used to be the mosque’s minaret is now the church’s bell tower.

So I guess the hammam will just have to remain relegated as a ‘what once was’.

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