Rondas Arab Baths, known in Spanish as “Baños Arabes” are one of Ronda’s most important tourist attractions, and some argue more important than the unquestionably beautiful Puente Nuevo, or Ronda’s other claim to fame, the Plaza de Toros.
The baths are similar to the design perfected by the Romans, except that steam was used to sweat out pollutants from the body rather than soaking in hot water as the Romans used.
The Moors of Spain were also Muslim, so religious traditions were important, a Mosque was located next to the baths, and the baths were more than just a sanitary facility. They were also a place where locals and visitors alike would stop to purify and cleanse their bodies before entering the Mosque to purify their souls.
Original entrance to the city of Ronda.
In Moorish times the main entrance to the Medina (city) of Ronda was located next to the Baños Arabes. The Puente Arabe (bridge) may have been built around the same time as the Arab Baths. And, a high defensive wall which no longer exists (though its foundation stones can still be seen from the bridge.) In those times the baths were outside the walls of the city, set to the side of the main entrance gate, with a small doorway built into the city walls that connected to a passageway leading to the baths.
From the main entrance, visitors will find themselves overlooking the roof of the Arab Baths. You will see low rounded humps with glass panels inserted like leaded windows. These are the skylights and when you enter the baths, they are truly mesmerising from below.
The baths were built partially underground to better control the temperature of the building. Hot fires in the furnace room closest to the water entering from the aqueduct would heat the water. Channelling steam under the floor, terracotta (atanores) passed through the steam rooms, and then exited from chimneys before it reached the cold rooms.
Inside Rondas Arab baths.
Entering the baths, descend into the first chamber which these days has no roof. In Moorish times was the reception area for the baths, in Arabic known as the al-bayt al-maslaj, or, the changing room. It had a central pool about two and a half metres across, and a series of brick arches surrounding the pool. The arches once supported a domed ceiling with star shaped skylights, while the pool itself was a drinking fountain and not a bath as we might think.
Around the edges of this room were wooden benches for chatting and socialising, and against the back wall a series of screens that formed changing rooms. Toilets were also located in the first chamber.
Architecture of the Arab Baths.
Beside the first ruined chamber is a doorway which leads into a small room with pools at each end. This was the cold room, al-bayt al-barid, where people could relax and cool down before entering the warm and hot rooms again. Part of the tradition of these baths was to spend several hours here, and cleansing the body several times over.
For many of Ronda’s Moorish citizens a trip to the baths would not have been a daily ritual, but even if it was, this was medieval Ronda’s equivalent of our evening television where people would go to meet friends. Read about the history of Ronda’s Arab Baths.
The warm room.
The next room the largest of the covered chambers, the warm room, al-bayt al-wastami, and which in Moorish times was the warm room where people could relax and enjoy a massage, be pampered with perfumes, or sit in a pool of slightly warm water. This room was warm but not steamy. Mats and cushions were available to use, as well as wooden benches around the walls, and several tables for massage and therapeutic treatments by trained slaves were situated next to some of the columns.
The hot room.
The hot room, al-bayt al-sajun, which today is the room with the animated presentation, is the last room entered by the public, and was the case in Moorish times as well. This room has a pool at one end where water from the aqueduct was splashed over the hot floor creating a very humid and steamy atmosphere in the room.
The woodshed, al-furn, the far room in the Arab Baths and which isn’t open to today’s visitors, is where the water from the aqueduct arrived, and where wood would be unloaded from carts into a storage area. In this room the great fires were stoked in covered ovens with vented openings that kept the fire alive. At the end of this room, and at the back of the hot room, was an opening that allowed staff and slaves to enter and leave the Hammam.
Monday to Friday 10am till 6pm (10:00-18:00)
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10am till 3pm (10:00-15:00)
Price of Entry
3.50 € per individual
2.75 € if part of a group of 10 or more, and children under 14
Free on Tuesdays from 3pm to 5:30pm
For opening times and prices of museums and other monuments in Ronda, try this link. On the municipal Tourist office in Ronda. Under the heading “Timetables” you will see “Schedule of the museums and monuments (Spanish-English) and tourist pass“