The Ottoman Hammam Al-Ward In Saida, Lebanon

Howayda al-Harithy


Hammam Al-Ward is an Ottoman monument in Saida. Siada (or Sidon) is a coastal city in Lebanon and a hidden treasure with numerous Mamluk and Ottoman monuments. These monuments are of various types, from mosques to hammams to palaces and khans. They remain unstudied and at times undocumented. This is an architectural monograph of Hammam Al-Ward placed within the urban history of the city and the social practices of its inhabitants. Through documentation and comparative analysis, the paper argues that the hammam was built during the early eighteenth century but carries within it an old tradition of building that dates back to the Mamluk period and an old socio-spatial practice that dates back to Roman times. The article investigates and presents the urban condition that unfolds through the hammam patronage, style and location, the architectural interpretation of the hammam type of the Mediterranean Arab World and the socio-spatial practices of bathing and leisure that continue till modern times.


Islamic; Architecture; Hammam; Mamluk; Ottoman; Saida

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Munir al-Khuri, Saida a’bra hikab al-tarikh (Saida over the phases of History) (Beirut, 1966), 256

A similar administrative measure was taken in 1614, when Fakhreddine was in exile. It did not last long.

Al-Khuri, Saida a’bra hikab al-tarikh, 192

The origins of al-‘Azms are debatable. While some scholars claim a Turkish/Anatolian origin of this ruling elite, others claim Bedouin roots in the Ottoman service. Local chroniclers attributed a local origin to al-‘Azms stemming from the fact that al-‘Azms resided in Ma’arat al-Na’aman before their rise to power. For further discussion, refer to Karl Barbir, Ottoman Rule in Damascus 1708-1758 (Princeton University Press, 1980), 56-64

Al-‘Azm rulers of Damascus: Isma’il Pasha (1725), Suleyman Pasha (1734 and 1741), Asa’ad Pasha (1743), Mohamed Pasha, ‘Abdallah Pasha. Al- ‘Azm rulers on Tripoli: Isma’il Pasha (1724), Suleyman Pasha (1726), Ibrahim Pasha (1727), Yusuf Pasha, Abdullah Pasha.

The nature of al-‘Azm rule stirs scholarly discussions: Shamir Simon’s hypothesis describes it as a dynastic rule, established by the right of inheritance, reflecting the decline in provincial control of the Ottoman administration whereas Barbir positions their rule in the broader context of ottoman provincial administration, a recurrent pattern in elite governorships, that is however due to the family’s competence in Ottoman affairs (p.63).

For a further discussion of al-‘Azms rule, refer to Shamir Shimon, ‘The Azm Walis of Syria, (1724-1785). The period of Dynastic Succession in the government of the wilayas, Damascus, Sidon and Tripoli.’

(P.H.D dissertation, Princeton University, 1961)

For further discussion of the interventions of the first ‘Azm ruler in Damascus, Isma’il Pasha, read Brigitte Marino, Les Constructions d’Isma’il Pacha al-‘Azm à Damas (1137-1143 AH/1725-1730 CE) (The constructions of Isma’il Pasha al-‘Azm in Damascus) published in Peter Sluglett with Stefan Weber, edit, Syria and Bilad al-Sham under Ottoman Rule essays in honour of Abdul Karim Rafeq (Brill 2010), 241-268

Simon, ‘The Azm Walis’ 65

Al-Khuri, Saida a’bra hikab al-tarikh, 263

Barbir, Ottoman Rule, 63

Antoine Abdel Nour, Introduction À l’Histoire Urbaine de la Syrie Ottomane (XVIe – XVIIIe siècle) (Introduction to the Urban History of Ottoman Syria (17th – 18th century)). (Beirut: Librairie Orientale, 1982), 352

In his book, Sinno studies the court registers, awqaf documents, of the 19th century in order to represent the city at that time. Ghassan Munir Sinno, Madinat Saida, 1818-1860: dirassa fil umran al-hadariyy min khilal watha’ikiha al-char’iyya (The city of Saida, 1818-1860: a study of urban development through its court registers) (Beirut, 1988), 494

A common saying among locals, to suggest Hammoud’s family past wealth.

Abdul Rahman Hijazi, Dalil ma’alem Saida al-islamiyya (A guide to Saida’s religious landmarks)(Saida, 1983), 93

Stefan Weber, Space, Urban Institution and society in Ottoman Bilad al-Sham, published in Peter Sluglett with Stefan Weber, edit, Syria and Bilad al-Sham under Ottoman Rule essays in honour of Abdul Karim Rafeq (Brill 2010), 179-239

Weber, Space, Urban Institution, 220

Sinno, Madinat Saida, 44: the author mentions that in both cases of al-Ward and al-Jadid, the hara took the name of the hammam

Talal al-Majzoub, Tarikh Saida al-Ijtima’iyy (The social history of Saida) (Saida, 1983), 264.

‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi went on a trip from Damascus to the coastal cities of Saida, Beirut and Tripoli in September 1700 reaching the internal areas east and then Damascus in October. He provides detailed descriptions and poems of his stay in the different cities. For further details, refer to ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi, Al-Tuhfa al Nabulsiyya fi al-Rihla al Tarabulsiyya (The Nabulsian Treasure on the Trabulsian Travel), edit, Heribert Brusse, (Beirut, 1971), 34

Hammam al-Mir was demolished by an Israeli raid in 1982.

Hammam I’zzidin built in 1294-1298 by Tripoli’s governor of that period I’zzidin Aybak.

Hayat Salam-Liebich, The Architecture of Mamluk City of Tripoli, (Massachusetts, The Agha Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, 1983), 189-194

Ecochard, a French architect and urban planner. For further discussion, refer to Michel Ecochard and Claude LeCoeur, Les bains de Damas – Monographies Architecturales (The bathhouses of Damascus – Architectural Monographs) (Institut Français de Damas, 1942)

Ecochard, Les bains de Damas V1, 35

Majzoub, ‘Tarikh Saida’, 283

Majzoub, ‘Tarikh Saida’, 260

Hammam Al-Ward was in the 19th century an endowment of Al-Bawaba Mosque in Saida (demolished during the French Mandate) which proceeds went to the poor families in Mecca and Medina. In the 20th century, the ownership was transferred to local families in Saida.

Hussam al-Atab al-Daye, ‘Sidon: a historical and archaeological study of the Ottoman (16th- 18th century) Public monuments’ - Volume 1-2.

(Master of Arts thesis, American University of Beirut, 1997), 126-132

Interview with hammam al-Ward owner, Mustafa Koteish, January 2016.

Majzoub, ‘Tarikh Saida’, 282

In an interview with Dr. Talal Majzoub, a historian and researcher of Saida’s heritage, he explains his feelings after trying a bath in one of Saida’s hammams. November 2015.


Mohamad al-Rawas, Al-hayat al-iktisadiyya fi Saida al-uthmaniyya (The economic life in Ottoman Saida)

(Masters’ thesis, the Lebanese University, 1997), pp.60-70

Majzoub,’Tarikh Saida’, 282

Interview with Khalil Halabi, current owner of hammam al-Sheikh, January 2015.



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