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A Hammam To Forget The War


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Katharina Castellon



War is a devastating phenomenon that leaves a lasting impact on individuals and communities. The trauma and stress associated with living through such times can severely affect mental health and emotional well-being. In the face of such adversity, finding moments of solace and healing becomes crucial.


One unconventional yet effective method of finding respite from the scars of war is through the ancient practice of the hammam. Originating in the Middle East, a hammam is a communal bathhouse that offers not only physical cleansing but also a sanctuary for the mind and spirit.


In this article, we delve into the power of the hammam as a healing space in the midst of war. We explore the ways in which this traditional practice helps individuals cope with the mental and emotional toll of conflict. From the physical experience of the hammam to the rituals and traditions followed within its walls, we uncover the myriad ways in which this unique sanctuary promotes healing, restoration, and a sense of community.


Join us on a journey of rediscovery as we explore the transformative power of the hammam, and how it offers a space of respite and renewal in the face of war.


Background of the War

Before we delve into the power of the hammam as a healing space, it is important to grasp the context in which it is needed. The effects of war are far-reaching and can have a profound impact on individuals, families, and entire communities.


Wars are often driven by political, economic, religious, or ideological conflicts, leaving destruction and devastation in their wake. Communities are torn apart, infrastructure is demolished, and lives are lost. The chaos and violence witnessed during times of war create an atmosphere of fear, trauma, and despair.


While the specific background of each war may vary, the consequences remain similar. People experience immense stress, anxiety, and grief as they face the loss of loved ones, displacement, and an uncertain future. The psychological toll of war is staggering, affecting individuals of all ages and backgrounds.


Children are particularly vulnerable during times of conflict. They may witness the destruction of their homes and communities, suffer from malnutrition and disease, and be exposed to violence and trauma. These experiences can have long-lasting effects on their mental health, leading to issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems.


Adults, too, bear the burden of war. Soldiers may experience combat-related trauma, while civilians may grapple with grief, fear, and the constant struggle for survival. The erosion of trust, loss of livelihoods, and disruption of social structures further exacerbate the impact of war on mental health.


Against this backdrop of turmoil and suffering, finding avenues for healing is of utmost importance. The hammam emerges as an unexpected but powerful means of restoring hope and providing solace amidst the chaos of war.


The Effects of War on Mental Health

War has a profound impact on the mental health of individuals and communities. The experiences of violence, loss, and instability during times of conflict can lead to a wide range of mental health issues.


One of the most common mental health problems associated with war is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals who have been exposed to traumatic events, such as combat, bombings, or displacement, may develop symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, and anxiety. These symptoms can persist long after the war has ended, affecting an individual’s ability to function and maintain healthy relationships.


Depression is another prevalent mental health issue among war-affected populations. The loss of loved ones, homes, and livelihoods can leave individuals feeling hopeless, helpless, and overwhelmed. The constant exposure to violence and destruction can shatter one’s sense of safety and stability, contributing to feelings of sadness, despair, and a lack of motivation.


Anxiety disorders are also common among those impacted by war. The uncertainty and unpredictability of war can create a constant state of fear and apprehension. Individuals may develop generalized anxiety, panic attacks, or specific phobias related to the war experience. These conditions can significantly impair daily functioning and quality of life.


Furthermore, war can disrupt the social fabric of communities, leading to a sense of isolation and disconnection. The breakdown of social support networks, separation from family and friends, and the loss of community cohesion can contribute to feelings of loneliness and alienation. This social disconnection can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and hinder recovery.


It is important to recognize that the effects of war on mental health are not limited to the individuals directly involved in combat. The entire community is affected, including children, the elderly, and vulnerable populations. Long-term exposure to violence and adversity can have intergenerational effects, impacting the mental health of future generations.


Addressing the mental health consequences of war is crucial for the overall well-being and resilience of individuals and communities. It is within this context that the concept of the hammam as a healing space takes on added significance.


The Concept of Hammam as a Healing Space

The hammam, with its ancient roots in the Middle East, offers a unique and compelling concept of a healing space. It serves as a haven for physical cleansing, relaxation, and rejuvenation, but its impact goes far beyond the realm of the physical. The hammam embodies a holistic approach to well-being, addressing not only the body but also the mind and spirit.


At its core, the hammam is a place of sanctuary and escape from the outside world. Within the hammam’s walls, individuals can temporarily leave behind the stress, trauma, and chaos of the war-ravaged environments. The serene and comforting atmosphere of the hammam creates a sense of peace, providing a much-needed respite from the mental and emotional burdens associated with war.


One of the key aspects of the hammam as a healing space is the focus on self-care. In the midst of war, individuals often neglect their own needs as they prioritize survival and the well-being of their loved ones. The hammam offers an opportunity to reconnect with oneself, to focus on personal well-being, and to engage in acts of self-nurturing.


The entire ritual of the hammam, from the steam room to the scrubbing and massage, is designed to not only cleanse the body but also release tension and promote relaxation. The soothing warmth of the steam and the gentle touch of the masseur ease muscular tension and promote a sense of tranquility.


Additionally, the hammam promotes the concept of ritual and mindfulness. From the careful preparation of the body before entering the steam room to the deliberate movements and actions during the cleansing process, every step of the hammam experience is imbued with intention and mindfulness. This mindful engagement helps individuals to be present in the moment, to let go of worries and stress, and to cultivate a sense of inner peace.


Furthermore, the hammam embodies a sense of tradition and cultural heritage. The practice of communal bathing in the hammam has been passed down through generations, creating a connection to the past and a sense of continuity. This connection to tradition can offer a source of comfort and reassurance to individuals who may have been uprooted from their homes and communities due to war.


The concept of the hammam as a healing space extends beyond the individual to include social connection and community. The communal bathing experience fosters a sense of belonging and shared humanity. In the confines of the hammam, individuals from all walks of life come together, united by their desire for healing and respite. This shared experience creates a supportive and empathetic environment, where individuals can find solace in knowing that they are not alone in their struggles.


In the next sections, we will explore in more detail the specific ways in which the hammam promotes healing and restoration, both physically and mentally, during times of war.


Rediscovering the Hammam Experience

In the midst of the chaos and destruction of war, the hammam offers a sanctuary for individuals to rediscover a sense of peace, rejuvenation, and connection to their bodies and spirits. The experience of the hammam is rooted in ancient practices that have been passed down through generations, and even in the face of war, individuals find solace in reconnecting with these age-old traditions.


For many who have experienced the horrors of war, the hammam becomes a symbol of resilience and hope. It represents a return to normalcy, to a time before conflict tore lives apart. By participating in the ritual of the hammam, individuals are able to temporarily escape the harsh realities of war and embrace a sense of normalcy and stability.


The hammam experience begins with the careful preparation of the body. This includes scrubbing and exfoliating the skin in order to remove dirt, toxins, and dead cells. In war-torn environments where access to proper sanitation may be limited, the hammam provides an opportunity for thorough cleansing, promoting not only physical hygiene but also a sense of renewal and purification.


As individuals enter the steam room, the temperature and humidity envelop them, allowing the body to release tension and stress. The heat opens up pores, promoting detoxification and improved circulation. In this environment, individuals have a chance to let go of their worries and immerse themselves in the present moment.


During the hammam experience, there is a strong emphasis on touch and massage. The masseur uses skilled techniques to knead the muscles, relieving tension and promoting relaxation. In war-torn areas, where physical touch and comfort may be scarce, the hammam becomes a vital source of healing and human connection.


While the physical benefits of the hammam are significant, the mental and emotional benefits are equally important. The sanctuary of the hammam allows individuals to unburden their minds and find respite from the constantly stressful and traumatic conditions of war. The silence and tranquility of the hammam provide a much-needed break from the noise and chaos outside.


Moreover, the hammam experience fosters a sense of self-care and self-compassion. In war, individuals often focus solely on survival, neglecting their own needs. The hammam encourages individuals to prioritize their own well-being and engage in acts of nurturing and self-love. This can have profound effects on mental well-being, promoting a sense of worthiness and inner peace.


By actively participating in the hammam experience, individuals are able to reclaim a sense of control and agency over their bodies and minds. In war, individuals may feel powerless and helpless, at the mercy of external circumstances. The hammam offers a space where they can make choices, engage in self-care, and find a momentary reprieve from the chaos and uncertainty.


In the next sections, we will explore in more detail the specific ways in which the hammam promotes healing through physical cleansing, rituals, and traditions, as well as the importance of social connection within the hammam setting.


Healing Through Physical Cleansing

One of the key aspects of the hammam experience is the profound sense of healing that comes from engaging in physical cleansing rituals. In war-affected environments where access to proper hygiene and sanitation may be limited, the hammam offers a space for thorough cleansing, promoting not only physical well-being but also a sense of renewal and revitalization.


Within the hammam, individuals engage in a meticulous process of scrubbing and exfoliating the skin. The use of natural oils and soaps, combined with skilled techniques, helps to remove dirt, toxins, and dead skin cells. This deep cleansing not only improves the overall health and appearance of the skin but also creates a literal and metaphorical shedding of the burdens carried from war.


As the gentle friction of the scrubbing motions invigorates the skin, individuals experience a renewed sense of vitality and freshness. The act of physically cleansing the body becomes symbolic of purging the weight of the past and embracing a fresh start. This physical rejuvenation can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being.


Furthermore, the cleansing process in the hammam involves the use of steam, which helps to open up pores and promote detoxification. The warm, enveloping steam creates a soothing and relaxing environment, allowing individuals to release tension and stress that may have accumulated during times of war. This physical release of tension can lead to a sense of lightness and ease in both the body and mind.


In addition to the physical benefits of cleansing, the act of caring for one’s body through the hammam experience promotes a sense of self-care and self-compassion. In war-affected environments, where individuals often prioritize survival and the well-being of others, taking the time to attend to personal hygiene needs can be a powerful act of reclaiming autonomy and nurturing oneself.


The mindful engagement involved in the physical cleansing rituals of the hammam also contributes to the healing process. As individuals focus on the sensations and movements of their bodies, they are able to disconnect from the traumas and stressors of war. The concentration on the here and now allows for a temporary escape from the worries and anxieties that may plague the mind.


Overall, the physical cleansing rituals within the hammam not only promote hygiene and well-being but also offer a transformative and healing experience. By engaging in these rituals, individuals can shed the weight of the past, release tension, and find solace in the renewal of their physical being. In the next section, we will explore how the hammam experience incorporates rituals and traditions that further contribute to the healing process.


Healing Through Rituals and Traditions

Central to the hammam experience is the rich tapestry of rituals and traditions that have been passed down through generations. These rituals not only enhance the physical cleansing process but also contribute to the healing and restoration of individuals in war-affected environments.


One of the key rituals in the hammam is the preparation of the body before entering the steam room. This includes the careful pouring of warm water over the body, washing away physical impurities and symbolically preparing for the cleansing process. This ritual of water, which has long been associated with purification and renewal, sets the foundation for the spiritual and mental healing that takes place within the hammam.


Another significant aspect of the hammam experience is the communal nature of the bathing ritual. Historically, the hammam was a social gathering place, where individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life would come together to cleanse and connect. This sense of community and shared experience is a crucial element of the healing process, as it fosters a sense of belonging and support.


Within the hammam, specific rituals are followed in a prescribed order. From the scrubbing and exfoliating of the skin to the application of natural oils and soaps, each step is imbued with intention and purpose. These rituals provide a sense of structure and rhythm, allowing individuals to engage in a mindful and present state of being.


The use of natural materials and products within the hammam rituals is also significant. Natural oils, soaps, and exfoliants are not only gentle on the skin but also carry symbolic meaning. The use of these natural elements represents a return to simplicity, purity, and a connection to the earth. This connection to nature can be profoundly healing, offering a sense of grounding and harmony in the midst of the chaos of war.


Throughout the hammam experience, individuals are encouraged to slow down, breathe deeply, and be fully present in the moment. The gentle touch and massage provided by the masseur is not only physically soothing but also carries a sense of nurturing and care. This physical connection serves as a reminder of the importance of human touch and can help to alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness.


Overall, the rituals and traditions within the hammam create a sacred space for individuals to engage in self-care, reconnect with themselves, and find solace in shared experiences. These rituals provide a sense of structure, meaning, and connection to something larger than oneself. In the final section, we will explore the importance of social connection within the hammam setting and how it contributes to the healing process.


The Importance of Social Connection

Within the hammam, the importance of social connection cannot be overstated. This ancient communal bathhouse serves as a gathering place where individuals from various backgrounds come together to share an experience of healing and renewal. The power of social connection within the hammam setting contributes significantly to the overall healing process, particularly in war-affected environments.


War, by its very nature, erodes social bonds and disrupts communities. Families and friends are often displaced or torn apart, and social support networks are fragmented. This loss of connection can exacerbate feelings of isolation, loneliness, and despair in individuals who have been impacted by war.


However, the hammam offers a space for individuals to reconnect and forge new connections. In the midst of the hammam’s steam-filled rooms, social barriers are broken down, and individuals find themselves in a shared experience of vulnerability and healing. Within these walls, individuals from diverse backgrounds, including locals and refugees, come together, finding solace in their shared humanity.


The sense of community within the hammam promotes a feeling of belonging and acceptance. Strangers become companions, offering words of encouragement and understanding. The collective experience of the hammam fosters empathy, as individuals become aware of the shared struggles faced by others in war-affected environments.


Sharing the physical space of the hammam also allows for the exchange of stories, experiences, and wisdom. Individuals can find solace in knowing that they are not alone in their journey and that others have faced and overcome similar challenges. This sharing of narratives can be empowering and inspiring, providing a sense of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.


The hammam rituals and traditions themselves are often passed down through generations, preserving cultural heritage and identity. In war-affected environments, where cultural practices may be endangered or neglected, the hammam becomes a space for cultural revitalization. Through communal bathing and the engagement in rituals, individuals can reconnect with their cultural roots, strengthening their sense of identity and pride.


The importance of social connection within the hammam goes beyond the shared experience during the bathing ritual. Relationships formed within the hammam can extend beyond its walls, creating a support network that individuals can rely on in times of need. The friendships and bonds formed within this space can provide an ongoing source of emotional support and connection that is especially crucial during times of war and uncertainty.


By emphasizing social connection, the hammam not only promotes healing on an individual level but also fosters a sense of community resilience. The shared experiences, empathy, and support that are cultivated within the hammam can ripple out into the wider community, fostering a sense of unity and collective healing.


Overall, the hammam provides a unique and powerful space for individuals to find solace, connection, and healing in the midst of war. Through the power of social connection, both within the hammam and beyond, individuals can begin to rebuild their lives and find strength in shared experiences.



In the midst of the devastation and turmoil of war, the hammam emerges as a powerful and unconventional healing space. It offers individuals a respite from the stress, trauma, and chaos associated with conflict, allowing them to find moments of solace, rejuvenation, and connection.


Throughout this article, we have explored the profound impact of war on mental health and how the hammam serves as a sanctuary for healing. We have seen how the physical cleansing rituals within the hammam promote not only hygiene but also a sense of renewal and purification. The incorporation of rituals and traditions enhances the healing experience, providing structure, meaning, and a connection to cultural heritage.


Furthermore, the hammam’s emphasis on social connection is of paramount importance. In war-affected environments where social bonds are severed, the hammam becomes a gathering place where individuals can find a sense of belonging, empathy, and support. The shared experiences within the hammam create a community, fostering resilience and providing a space for collective healing.


The hammam, with its rich history and traditions, becomes a symbol of hope, resilience, and cultural continuity. It offers individuals a temporary escape from the burdens of war, allowing them to reconnect with themselves, their bodies, and their collective human spirit.


It is crucial to recognize the importance of these healing spaces in war-affected environments. As we seek to support and rebuild communities impacted by conflict, providing opportunities for individuals to access the healing power of the hammam can contribute to their overall well-being, mental health, and resilience.


In conclusion, the hammam serves as a testament to the enduring human spirit and the profound capacity for healing and renewal. Through physical cleansing, rituals, traditions, and social connection, the hammam offers individuals a path to reclaim their sense of self, find solace amidst the chaos of war, and emerge with a renewed sense of hope and strength.