Iran's historic bathhouses, where patrons are rinsed and massaged beneath graceful archways and tiled walls, may soon disappear as interest in them wanes.
Some of the bathhouses, known as "hammams" in Persian, are centuries old. But business has declined as modern conveniences now allow showers and baths in most homes across the Islamic Republic. The few that remain, mostly in old neighborhoods, largely draw day laborers and travelers.
"Nowadays, there are only three or four public bathhouses in Tehran," says Mahdi Sajjadi, head of the Tehran bathhouse owners' association.
In the old days, the bathhouses were more than just a place to clean up, shave or get a massage from a "dallak," who uses a mitt to scrub and exfoliate a client's back. Then, people gathered in the humid air to discuss current events and debate ideas.
Now, bathhouse owners like Gholam Ali Amirian, 70, who has spent four decades working in a hammam that is some 850 years old, fear the institution will dissipate like the steam from its heated pool.
"Some 35 years ago, before the revolution, we had lots of customers," Amirian says. "At 4 a.m., when I wanted to open the hammam, there were people already in a queue. Five people worked here and we had over 50 customers a day. But now we have three customers a day on average."
Sajjadi suggests the government could turn the bathhouses into tourist attractions by offering low-interest loans to owners to renovate their aging interiors. But so far, there's been no move to do that as the economic pressure grows.
Here are a series of images by Associated Press photographer Ebrahim Noroozi from inside some of Iran's remaining bathhouses.
See more photos by Ebrahim Noroozi
Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Time slowly washing away Iran's public bathhouses.
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Nat Castañeda is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Brooklyn, New York. A California native, Castañeda works primarily in video and collage, with an emphasis on tactile intimacy with her materials remaining an important aspect of all her projects. Common issues in Castañeda’s work are the conflating of iconography and pornography, the questioning of traditional gender binaries, and the role of technology within personal narratives. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts and has shown at venues such as El Museo del Barrio and Electronic Arts Intermix. In addition to her art practice, Castañeda currently works at The Associated Press where she leads a team that curates AP's online archive of historic and contemporary photojournalism. Castañeda’s photography has appeared in the New York Times,U.S. News & World Report and USA Today.