Bathhouses in Azerbaijan have always occupied a special place in people’s lives, being a favorite place for the pleasure of body and spirit. In the baths, people rested, communicated, made important connections and concluded deals. Most of these historical baths are now protected as monuments of architecture, and some of them are still used for their intended purpose.
Bath Haji Banu in Baku
This bathhouse, located in the Baku fortress, near the Maiden Tower, was built at the end of the 15th century by the architect Haji Banu, commissioned by Haji Gaib. Therefore, the bathhouse has a double name: it is known to some as a bathhouse of Haji Gaib, and to someone like Haji Banu Hamam.
In the Old City of Baku every quarter had its own bath. According to the architectural design, the baths were located partly underground, which helped to regulate the temperature in them. Such baths were hot in winter and cool in summer. In addition to sanitary and hygienic functions, the baths were an excellent place for a rational leisure time.
Bath Haji Banu was located on the trade and caravan route and served as a favorite meeting place, communication and pastime for tired travelers and merchants.
For a long time, the bathhouse remained underground until it was discovered as a result of archaeological excavations in 1964. Now the building of the bath is guarded as a monument of national importance.
Bath of Kasum bey in Baku
This bathhouse, also located in the Old Town, was built in the XVII century near the fortress gates, called the Salyan. In the common people, this hamam was often referred to as the “sweet bath” because here they always served sweets for tea.
The structure of the bathhouse layout is based on traditional methods of architecture of such structures. So, the bathhouse consists of a vestibule, a dressing room, a bathing room, a pool and a firebox. The dressing room and bathing pool are covered with a cross-shaped dome with chambers along the edges. The water supply and heating of the baths were carried out by means of ceramic pipes placed in the walls and under the floor. After the restoration work in the bathhouse in 1970, a well-known Baku’s “Green Pharmacy” functioned there for a long time.
Bath Kasum bey is one of the most interesting architectural monuments of the Middle Ages and is currently protected by the state as a monument of national importance.
Bath Aga Mikail
Another one of the baths of the Baku fortress. Its feature is that it still works! The bathhouse was built in the XVIII century in the southwestern part of the Fortress, on one of the main streets – Kichik Gala, by Shemakha resident Haji Aga Mikail. In the common people, the territory where the bathhouse is located was called the quarter of the bathhouse attendants.
Aga Mikails Bath differs from other hammams by the spaciousness of the interior. The dressing room and bathhouse are square. The architectural composition of the structure is expressed by arched lobes and domes divided into proportional tiers. Above the building stands a chimney of unusual shape.
In the bath of Aga Mikail, some scenes of the pearl of the Azerbaijani cinema were shot – the film “Not That, This One”, based on the eponymous operetta of Uzeir Hajibeyli. Due to this in the people this bath is often called “Mashadi Ibad Hamam”, named after the main character of the comedy.
In 2010, this monument of national importance was thoroughly restored. Now the bath attracts a large number of tourists who want to get to know in practice the peculiarities of the arrangement of ancient Azerbaijani hamams.
By the way, in the center of Baku there is another historical bathhouse – Taza Bay Hamamy, built in 1886, which still operates. Now this bath, featuring an exotic oriental interior with elements of a palace style, is considered a favorite recreational area for Baku residents and guests of the city and definitely deserves attention.
Chuhur Hamam in Guba
This ancient bathhouse is located in the city of Guba, in the north of Azerbaijan. The building of the hamam, built in the 18th century from red brick, is crowned by a large dome, which allowed to maintain the desired temperature and humidity in the room. This quadrangular structure is also called Sukhur (Chukhur) hamam, i.e. Bath, built of special rocks. There are six rooms in the building, six windows and two doors. Water was supplied from the well under the bath or from the city water supply.
At one time in this bath rest French writer Alexander Dumas, who visited Guba during his travels to Azerbaijan. And 150 years later, his great-grandson also visited these places.
During the genocide, committed in 1918 by Armenians in Guba, people were also smothered in the Chukhur hamam by steam. Then they were thrown into dug pits. Now in Guba on the site of the mass grave there is a memorial where the finds are on display.
Until 1985, the bathhouse of Chukhur Hamam was used for its intended purpose and was the main resting place for the Guba people. Now this pearl of the eastern architecture is restored and guarded as a historical monument.
Historical baths of Masalli
In the Masalli region in the south of Azerbaijan, there are several ancient baths, mostly buildings of the XIX century. Unfortunately, many of them stopped their activities in the early 90s of the last century, although they were actively used up to that time. But now they need restoration. One of these baths, for example, is located in the center of Masalli, another one, called Boyuk Hamam (“Big Bath”) – in the village of Gizilagaj.
Bath Boyuk Hamam refers to the buildings of the late XVIII – early XIX centuries and is a nine-dome structure, inside which are built 5 large rooms. Our contemporary, the writer Molla Haji Nyusrat writes in his book “Gizilagaj and Its Inhabitants” that this bath belonged to the well-known philanthropist Haji Mammad.
It is noteworthy that the boiler house of the bath was located at a depth of 3 meters, and the baths themselves at a depth of 2 meters. The bath was heated with a small amount of firewood, and the channels through which the smoke went out passed through the entire floor of the bath, warming it: a peculiar system of “warm floors.” After the firewood was burnt, the boiler room’s entrance was laid with bricks, which allowed to keep the heat, due to which the bath could be heated for several days. The water supply of the bath was provided by a separate well. The bathhouse, which operated until 1988, was visited not only by Gizilagaj people, but also by residents of all surrounding villages.
But there are also ancient hammams in the Masalli region, which still work today. One of them is in the village of Boradigyah. This bath was built in the XIX century with the help of a local philanthropist Haji Miraga. After modern repair, the truth here hardly guessed the belonging of the bath to the building of the XIX century, but still it’s nice to realize that you are resting in a building that is almost 200 years old.
Chokek Hamam in Ganja
In the ancient Azerbaijani city of Ganja, a magnificent architectural ensemble of the 17th century, created by the architect Shaykh Bahauddin, is preserved, which includes Juma mosque, Karavansaray and Chokek Hamam.
Sometime after the construction of the Juma mosque in 1606, Shaykh Bahauddin, in the same year built nearby Chokek Hamam. The main purpose of the bath was to help the Muslims in maintaining ritual purity.
The construction of the bath used traditional materials for that time: red brick, and a binding mixture of egg white, clay and lime. The bathhouse consists of two communicating halls: the main one – with a pool and a fountain in the center, intended for rest, and small – for bathing.
The bath has two large and five small domes. On the top of the large domes are half-domes, which played the role of fans: from them the ventilation pipes spread out over the space inside the walls. In the winter it was hot here, and in the summer it was cool. The bath was heated with firewood. In the basement there were two steam boilers. The steam was fed to the halls along ceramic pipes laid in the walls and floor of the bath. Steam evenly circulated and heated the entire room. This unique 400-year-old system worked perfectly until 1963. And all these centuries the bath was very popular among the townspeople.
Since 2002, Chokek Hamam has acquired the status of a cultural monument of international importance and is under the protection of UNESCO.