Bathing in History - Damascus



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“England knows Egypt; Egypt is what England knows; England knows that Egypt cannot have self-government; England confirms that by occupying Egypt; for the Egyptians. Egypt is what England has occupied and now governs; foreign occupation therefore becomes “the very basis “ of contemporary Egyptian civilization.“ (Said 34) Knowledge in the hands of the powerful is a tool to shape the identity of the weak. Identity is shaped firstly through dominant environments and secondly through reason. Multiple overlapping imperial cultures (Aramean, Greek, Roman, Umayyad, Ayyubid, Ottoman, and French) in Damascus demonstrate the tie between knowledge, identity, crisis and the space of the city. Colonial planning and social elements of the city are molded and adjusted over time to fit the values of each empire. A surviving archetype- the bath- is the most dominant social evolutionary element in the city, although under a threat due to the development of modern Damascus, private residential baths, and the lack of Skin-ship values and traditions, especially between 1940s- 2004. Today’s civil war and the constant fear of death brought modern residents to value social traditions of the old city and gave rural and suburban refugees of Damascus a social and hygienic refuge . This thesis proposes revealing a contemporary Syrian identity by re-imagining the bathhouse.