Friday, August 8, 2008
Hammam Melouane is a small town at the foot of the Blidean Atlas mountains; 37km south west of Algiers. Hammam is the Arabic for baths and it is the presence of the baths with thermal spring water that gives the town it's name.
The drive from Algiers to Hammam Melouane is a beautiful one; as you turn inland away from the coast the scenery quickly becomes mountainous and you drive past fields upon fields of olive trees, apricot trees, orange groves already bearing tiny green spheres which will grow and become ripe by December, fig trees which have already been harvested for the first batch of larger figs - the smaller sweeter ones will come later, grape vines and prickly pear cacti which are interestingly named in Algerian although I am unsure as to why: they are called Qarnous Nasaara (Pears of the Christians) or Hindi (Indian).
As you enter the town of Hammam Melouane, you drive along a narrow road through the mountains and arrive in a populated valley with green mountains rising on all sides; these mountains are covered in snow during the winter.
If you pass right through the town, you will come to another mountain road and the stream which comes from higher in the mountains and people enjoy bathing there.
The actual hammam, Station Thermale, is reasonably priced at 120Dinars (6Riyals/75p) for adults and 60Dinars for children. The men's section is to one side and ladies' section to the other side. There are private rooms with a chair and bath so there's no need for communal bathing.
The water is hot and salty and full of minerals, rare gases, nitrogen, magnesium and iron. It is especially recommended for those with any kind of rheumatism; illnesses of the bones; joint pain; problems with the intestines, liver, pancreas and kidneys; circulation problems in addition to other conditions.
It is not recommended for those in the final stages of cancer, those with advanced tuberculosis and those with acute infections. *
On the main road through the town there is a busy street market and shops selling seasonal fruits, traditional clayware and other souvenirs and novelties.