Omeriye Ottoman Baths

Athina Papadopoulou

architect Conservator, Nicosia Master Plan

The Omeriye Ottoman Baths

8 Tillirias Square 1016 Nicosia Cyprus

www.nicosia.org.cy

Restoration and Reuse
First Prize in Category I - Conservation Projects, European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2005

ls"'For the safeguarding of the authenticity and adaptation to contemporary needs of a distinctive landmark of the walled city of Nicosia and for the sensitive treatment of an Islamic architectural element in a multicultural context.''

History
The Omeriye Ottoman Baths (hamam) is located in the Omeriye Quarter, in the heart of the walled city of Nicosia, Cyprus. It stands to the north of Omeriye mosque, a very important monument of the old city. The mosque was probably named after the prophet Omar, to whom the mosque was dedicated, after the Ottoman conquest of the island in 1570-71.
The Omeriye mosque was once the church of St. Mary of the Augustinians, part of the homonymous monastery of the Augustinian order, dating to the 14th century.
The Omeriye hamam, built by Lala Mustafa Pasha, the first ottoman administrator of the island,  dates back to the late 16th century, (around 1571), at the very beginning of the Ottoman rule. Furthermore, the hamam is one of three public baths in Nicosia and the only one of which has been fully restored.

Partners and objectives
The restoration of the Omeriye Ottoman Baths is part of a wider rehabilitation project, implemented within the framework of the bi-communal Nicosia Master Plan*, primarily funded by the European Union through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) / United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) - Partnership for the Future Programme. Funds for the realization of this project were also granted from the Nicosia Municipality and the Ministry of Interior (from the listed buildings incentives scheme).
The restoration of the Omeriye Ottoman Baths is one of three sub-projects in the Omeriye Area:

  • Stage 1: Road Rehabilitation, resurfacing and upgrading of infrastructure (Tillirias Street)
  • Stage 2: Restoration of the Omeriye Bath complex and the open space surrounding the monument
  • Stage 3: Restoration of the north faccedil;ade of the Omeriye mosque and landscaping of its garden.

Taking into concern the multicultural character of the old city of Nicosia, depicted mainly on its well preserved architectural character and the historic urban tissue, this project is a perfect example of restoring and re-adapting an old building to contemporary needs, preserving its original use and fabric.
The aim of this project falls under the general objectives of the Nicosia Master Plan for an integrated regeneration of the walled city of Nicosia and the conservation, protection and enhancement of its architectural heritage.

*The Nicosia Master Plan is the collaboration between Nicosia Municipality, The Department of Town Planning and Housing, Ministry of Interior under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), since 1980.

Intervention philosophy
The project aimed at restoring this historic building based on international good practice principles and charters regarding interventions on architectural heritage. The safeguarding of the authenticity of the structure, the principle of reversibility and the use of compatible methods and materials were of primary importance in the restoration plan. Minimum interventions, the respect of the historic phases of the monument as well as the clear indication of contemporary interventions were significant elements of the project.
Retaining the original use of the building as a hamam was a central issue of the restoration proposal.
The structural interventions were formulated and proposed following a condition survey and research of the existing materials, under the philosophy of minimum intervention in order to bring safety to acceptable levels while retaining the historic character and authenticity of the building.
The restoration of the hamam, together with the redesigning of its immediate exterior space has contributed to the upgrading of the building environment of the area and to the social enhancement of the complex which has brought new activity into the old city.
Meanwhile, the building itself is an important example of ottoman architecture in Cyprus therefore its restoration contributes to the preservation of the islands architectural and cultural heritage.

Building and use
The Omeriye Bath is a stone, load-bearing structure built of calcareous limestone quarried in the Nicosia district. The domes and ochre exterior stone walls make it a significant landmark in the profile of the old city. It has a history of continuous use since its construction up until prior to the beginning of the survey works and restoration project in 2002.
The building has a north and south entrance. The south entrance is reached through a small courtyard. The sequence and use of spaces follows the characteristic typology of ottoman baths of the time. One enters into a large square room with a dome and cupola at its peek. This space, the "sadrvan" (cool chamber), is where one would undress and prepare to proceed into the warm chamber ("kapaluk"). The dome-covered "sadrvan" has a small octagonal pool located in the centre and divans along the peripheral walls. The divans are sheltered by drapery hung on their outer edge providing privacy for dressing and resting after the bathing experience.
The warm chamber or "kapaluk" consists of three main spaces, which are covered by domes and pointed vaults and host sanitary uses. The intermediate temperature of these spaces helps the body prepare for entering the hot chamber ("mejan"), which follows in sequence. Traditionally, while acclimatizing oneself to the gradual increase in temperature, the warm chambers were used for body-grooming activities such as shaving, cutting and dying of hair.
The climax of the sequence of ones visit to the hamam is the hot chamber or "mejan". This space is square in plan covered by a central dome and has smaller chambers, the halvets, one in each corner. Each halvet includes two marble basins with running hot and cold water and is light by round and star-shaped openings in the dome above. At the centre of the hot chamber stands an octagonal stone bench of about 50cm high, which is used as a massage bench. All of the hot chamber spaces are heated via the floor under which hot air flows. The air is heated by a burner at the east end of the building at a level under the hot water tank. The water in the tank is heated to produce steam for the hot chambers simultaneously as the air is heated under the floor. The room temperature in the hot chambers reaches the range of 36deg;-38deg; Celsius.

After bathing in the hot chambers, one follows the reverse sequence of spaces and temperatures in order to reach the cool chamber where the divans offer a pleasant resting place before leaving the hamam.

Impact
The restoration of the Omeriye Ottoman Baths, together with the redesigning of its immediate exterior space has contributed to the upgrading of the built environment of the area and to the social enhancement of the complex which brings new activity into the old city.
At the same time the building itself is an important example of ottoman architecture in Cyprus therefore; its restoration contributes to the preservation of our architectural and cultural heritage.  
The project is an example of respecting, preserving and promoting the multicultural character and history of the city of Nicosia, it is an integral part of the multicultural heritage of Cyprus, but also part of the common European heritage.

Perspectives
The bi-communal Nicosia Master Plan continues to implement and plan projects in the walled city within the general framework of a sustainable urban regeneration approach.

Visiting and using the hamam
The hamam has been in full operation since March 2005 for the general public. One can visit and use the hamam according to the following opening hours:
Mon11:00-17:00(guided tours only), Tues-Sun 09:00-21:00(alternating days for men and women)
The Omeriye Ottoman Baths is located at, 8 Tillirias Square, 1016 Nicosia, Cyprus, Tel: 00 357 22 460 570, 00 357 22 750 550