“Cleanliness is next to godliness” appears to have been an adage dear to the heart of Emir Izzedin Aibek (1293 -1298). For barely four years after the city of Tripoli had fallen to Qala’un, Emir Ezzedine set about building the new provincial capital’s first public bath.
To accomplish this work of public utility he took choice marble fragments, sculptures and basins from Byzantine and Crusader churches which he then used freely to embellish his hammam.
The Arab conquerors of the seventh century had come into contact and copied the Roman-Byzantine baths which existed in the captured eastern provinces of the Byzantine empire.
The Romans with their organizing genius and love of luxury had developed not only the technique of bathing but also the planning of bath buildings as it never had been done before. The Izzedin baths of Tripoli follow the classic pattern of apodyterium, tepidarium and caldarium, called in Arabic the burrani (dressing room court around a fountain), the al-wustani or warm water room with small private bath rooms adjoining the al-hammi or very hot water and steam bath hall.
To decorate the front portal of his public bath Izzedin placed a fragment of double molding with a church inscription SCS Jacobus which probably came from a ruined Crusader church and hospice of Saint James.
Within the hammam the inner portal appears to have been lifted intact from a Crusader church for on the stone carved lintel there appears the paschal lamb between two rosettes, a typically Christian motif.
The carving has been whitewashed time and again throughout the years and is now crudely outlined in red paint with the inscription “ecce Agnus Dci” .
To avoid having apertures in the walls and ceilings for light, which would certainly result in heat loss, the domed roofs of the hammam are decorated by a series of green and blue glass roundels through which daylight filters giving the interior of the bath an eerie look .
In the chambers there are several worn multicolored marble basins to collect water for the bathers. The hammam has served the people of Tripoli for seven hundred and eighty years, since Emir Izzedin’s day to the present time.
Apparently the Emir who died on 1298 ,was so proud of his contribution to the city of Tripoli that he chose to be buried in a small mausoleum or ‘‘tomb-chapel’’ attached to the hammam.