In Bukhara there survived some rather interesting monuments of the medieval civil architecture. Among them are oriental bathhouses – hamom. Built in the 16th century, under Emir Abdullakhan, they have deep-rooted traditions. Next to trading center Toki Sarrafon there is Hammomi-Sarrafon bathhouse, and not far away from Toki Telpakfurushon trading centre stands Hammomi Bozori-Kord bathhouse. These semi-basement bathhouses with their domes being hardly above street level are part of a very dense group of medieval structures.
Unfortunately the once rich interior decoration, so characteristic of oriental bathhouses, has not survived in Bukhara structures. However, their design, as well as technical approach, is of great interest. The entrance of Sarrafon bathhouse faces the street; the stairs lead down to a large relaxation hall and a cloakroom (undressing room). Beyond them is a suite of subsurface bath chambers. The thick ground layer and low vaulted roof, which was even with the ground level, provide for good thermal insulation. The light comes in through little rectangular windows in the ceiling. The bath chambers are connected by narrow arched passages. The temperature of air, heated walls and floor becomes progressively higher as one proceeds toward the steam room. The bathhouse was heated up by a system of steam duct under the floor.
In ancient times water for washing was delivered from the Shakhrud Canal flowing nearby by special ceramic gutters. The water was heated up in a boiler room. Each bath chamber had two reservoirs: one for hot water and the other for cold water. Special tubs were used to draw water from reservoirs. There were men and women bath attendants who soaped and rinsed men and women customers respectively. Those who wished, could get a massage, hair-cutting and shaving.
While retaining their old architectural appearance, Bukhara’s medieval bathhouses have been technologically updated. They receive pipe water from the city’s water-supply system; water is heated up by natural gas, not by firewood. As for the rest, the ancient traditions of oriental bathhouses are very well kept here.