Across the ancient stone bridge, through the smoothed cobblestone courtyard, up the quaint stairs, and back 800 years through history. The doors of the Hammam Al Ándalus Granada might have opened in 1998, but the foundations - of both this very building and the bathhouse culture - have remained the same for a millenia.
Deeper and deeper you go into the ancient building, carefully following the host through the darkened complex. Exotic scents fill the air, as candles on the floor and star-shaped lights above create a tranquil, warm environment. This is a place of hushed voices and trickling water, of serenity and relaxation.
Modern renovation has faithfully captured the architecture and emotion of this building’s provenance: the golden age of Ibn al-Aḥmar. In the thirteenth century the first Emirate of Granada was the creator of the Alhambra, a residence built high above the city. It’s not a coincidence I feel the same energy in both luxurious destinations. Each dimly lit room of the Hammam al Andalus carries that same ancient opulence. From the ornate plasterwork, to the richly detailed ceramic tiles, marble floors, brickwork and beautiful columns.
They say life works in cycles, and this building is no different. Archaeological excavations have yielded the discovery of ancient water cisterns, suggesting we stand on the site of an original Arabic Hammam. The building was more recently used as a bakery, which fits the historic narrative: in the 15th century, when baths were banned following the Reconquista, hammams were turned into bakeries, taking advantage of the water heating boilers. The story adds touching significance to the Hammam Al Ándalus: the first Arab Bath to be opened in Spain since that cultural repression 500 years ago.
Down a staircase into a long corridor, darkened and private alcoves hold massage tables. Here the relaxing aromatherapy massage will separate your mind from your body. Let your soul wander through a summer garden of your choosing from the diverse assortment of fragrant oils. Will it be lavender, rose, pomegranate tree flower or red amber?
Returning upstairs relaxed and relieved, embrace the warm bath, the middle of three temperature options, and also the largest in the complex. The crystal pool and domed red plaster roof hold just enough heat for you to sit in comfort as patrons quietly socialise in the darkened corners like the centuries of old. Where will you go from here? The choice is yours. The hot pool offers an intense dry heat, while the cold plunge pool delivers a jolt to revitalise your body and mind. Some will be tempted by the hot stone bed and sauna, while others will enjoy the relaxation room with chess boards and Moroccan ‘té moruno’: green tea with mint and sugar.
A trip to the Hammam Al Ándalus is a journey through time. Few places can let you live through a thousand years of Moorish history in just 90 minutes.
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