Sunday, April 01, 2012

Saving the Ancient Hammams of Fez

The roof of the ancient Seffarine hammam

The traditional hammams in Fez are in a difficult struggle to survive. The costs of repairs and restoration has grown to the point where many are closing, or likely to do so in the near future. The Hammamed Project is an initiative that hopes to turn that around. Guided tours and training seminars to rediscover and rejuvenate ancient hammams in Damascus (Syria) and Fez (Morocco) are some of the initiatives of the project. It is funded by the EU as part of the Euromed Heritage IV programme.

''For us, it is like planting the seed for the future,'' said Naima Lahbil, who is working on the project in Morocco with the Ader-Fez organisation.

The Seffarine Hammam cold room (above) and changing room (below)

''I remember doing guided tours with some young people,'' said Lahbil, ''who all live in Fez's Medina and all go to hammams, since it is considered a part of everyday life in Morocco. The hammam where I took them, however, they were not familiar with.

This means that heritage can be discovered every day, even living in the Medina and it being part of everyday life.'' The head of the Hammamed project in Fez said that during that visit to the Medina, ''the youths made some proposals on what they thought should change in the hammams to make it more of an attraction.''

The European project also worked with students from Fez's architecture faculty. Lahbil said that ''thanks to our seminars, these future architects now know that the hammam is a private experience and that the space itself must lead to this experience, with specific rules from the division of the heated areas to the lighting. But not only this: the hammam is a private experience and at the same time a universal and social one, since there is space to have a conversation in, where people can meet.''

The Hammamed head thinks that ''these are all factors that an architect must take into consideration.''

The European project also worked on the restoration of the ancient Turkish bath in Fez, the Seffarine one.

Lahbil said that ''thanks to our intervention, there is the chance that the restoration is in line with the original experience of the hammam, and we hope it will have an impact also on other hammams.''

The association Ader-Fez has now ''drawn up a feasibility study for the restoration of about 40 hammams in the Fez Medina. Lahbil noted that ''this document can be used to attract funding from donors. A few years back something similar was done for caravanserais, and some donors agreed to restore them,'' especially as ateliers for artisans to work in.



Anonymous said...

The Seffarine Hammam was closed for renovation which caused great trouble for the locals who enjoyed going there each days - supposedly to be reopened a few years later looking brand new. As of today, more than 3 years ago, nothing is happening anymore and the hammam is closed, whoever knows what will then happen in the future. Where did the money go ? Where did the Hammamed project people go ? Who is taking care of this now ? So what is best ? A derelict hammam that is in line with the everyday life of its customers, and that has followed their ancestors ? And that still provides what people are waiting for : social space with bath facilities. Or a half-renovated hammam that is closed and which might never reopen, leaving a whole district (and the town) without it ? Hammamed : wanting to do good things is great, but please, once its started, dont stop halfway because its worse than not doing anything

Stephina Suzzane said...

Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. Flights to Entebbe