Hammam 'Izz al-Din Aybak
Tripoli, Lebanon
The hammam was built by Izz al Din Aybak. It was the first hammam built in Mamluk Tripoli and has remained the largest and most important hammam in the city. Constructed during the governorship of Izz al-Din (1294-98), it is still functioning today after some seven hundred years of continuous use. It has no inscriptions.

For the practical purpose of saving and keeping heat, Izz al Din, like most hammams, is surrounded by buildings and is hardly visible from the outside; as was also then customary, the facade was kept plain.

But simple as it is, the facade of the Hammam Izz al Din with its plain arched entrance still has some interesting decorative vignettes taken from an earlier building. Between the arch and a horizontal band of recessed stone molding, two seashells in relief are discernible on either sicte of the inscription SCS IACOBUS (St. James). The shell is the common symbol in the West for the Apostle James, patron saint of pilgrims, and the entrance was no doubt part of a Christian building, probably a hospice for pilgrims, as van Berchem and Fatio have suggested. Through the entrance corridor an inner door to the hammam shows the Paschal Lamb flanked by two rosettes and the Latin inscription ECCE AGN. DEI ("Behold the Lamb of God"), which further substantiates that theory. Such a hospice is known to have existed in a suburb of Crusaders' Tripoli. The dedication to St. James fits well with the Mons peregrinus, Mount of Pilgrims, the name by which this area of Tripoli at the foot of the Citadel was known to Christian authors and travelers. The lamb also appeared on coins struck in Tripoli during the Crusader period.

While there is no doubt that the corridor leading to the hammam, with its outer and inner doors bearing Christian iconography, is of Crusader origin, there is equally no doubt that the hammam proper belongs to the purest Muslim tradition of the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. The corridor was probably reused from the hospice because it was handy; the hammam was then built behind it following a Syrian Arab plan that bore no relation to the previous monument. A look at the plan and the cross-section, accompanied by a careful reading of Ecochard's description of the typical Muslim bath in Damascus, is sufficient to convince us that Izz al Din's bath follows very closely the pattern and arrangement of Syrian baths.

The hammam has a single entrance that leads into a large square room with three raised iwans, an octagonal pool in the center, and a high raised dome with a skylight, all typical and necessary elements of the room known as the mashlah, or changing room. There the bather disrobes leaving his clothes in the drawers provided, and there also he rests after the bath on the couches along the walls of the iwan. This is the only area of the hammam that is free of heat and steam, so whatever furniture is needed has to be kept there.

From the mashlah one proceeds to the actual bathing area. In all three areas-cold, warm, and hot-steam and heat must be controlled, so every effort is made to avoid drafts; hence there are no windows in a bath. Light is provided by small glass openings studding the domes, which allow a minimum amount to filter through.

The cold room known as the wastan' barran ("outer central") is the first room of the bath proper and acts as a transition between the cold mashlah and the heated area. The warm room known as the wastani jawwani ("inner central") is the room where beauty treatments take place. This area may consist of one room only or may include several rooms, known as maqsurahs, opening off from it. In the case of the Hammam Izz al Din the central room has two adjoining maqsurahs.

The hot room known as the juwwani hararah ("inner heat") is where the actual bathing takes place. The clients sit on built-in benches until they perspire, and then they wash. Here again the central room has two side rooms at the Hammam Izz al Din; the traditional twelfth century bath had one room only, but more were added to the plan over time.

The Hammam Izz al Din with its large changing room, single cold room, three warm rooms, and three hot rooms (the sequence of four areas is clearly seen on the cross-section) is typical for Syrian hammams of the period" (Salam 1983: 189-194).

According to Dr. Tadmouri, this public bathing-house was gifted to the city at 1295-1299 CE/694-698 Hejirah by its Mamluk governor "Izzeldeen Aybak el-Mawsili." The governor, who died in 1298 A.D. (late 13th century), is buried in a mausoleum beside the hammam. In building this bath, he used choice remains from the Crusader church and hospice of St. Jacob. The front portal is decorated with an inscribed fragment between two Saint-James shells, and the inner door is surmounted by the Paschal lamb. The hammam Izzedeen, badly damaged in Lebanon's war, was in continual use until recently and it is now under restoration. It occupies a 745 m2 area and is present at the Hadeed district (Tadmouri, webpage).


Salam-Liebich, Hayat. 1983. The Architecture of the Mamluk City of Tripoli. Cambridge: The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.

Tadmouri, Omar. "Izzedeen Hamam." Tripoli City Website. http://tripoli-city.org/hammam.html#izzedeen. [Accessed April 18, 2006]
Tripoli, Lebanon
Images & Videos
Associated Names
Associated Collections
1294-98/693-697 AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Izz al-Din Aybak Baths
Izz al-Din Hammam
Building Usages