Rabat – A hammam was discovered in Seville when a local tapas bar underwent renovations, uncovering a pearl of Morocco’s history and culture.
The owners of tapas bar “Cervercería Giralda” in Seville had aimed to use the current lack of customers, due to the pandemic, as a chance to renovate their building.
The bar is situated below a 1920s hotel built in the Moorish Revival style that was popular in the early 20th century. As such, the owners figured that its Islamic appearance originated from the architectural style that was popular when the hotel was constructed.
They discovered a centuries-old masterpiece built during the reign of Morocco’s Almohad dynasty. The building was discovered to date back to the 12th-century, unlike the 1920s as previously thought.
At the time, the hammam was part of a network of over ten thousand hammams that are still present in Morocco today.
Leaving the building today means stepping into Sevilla’s tourist district, in the shadow of one of the city’s Catholic churches. When it was constructed however, anyone leaving the building would have stepped into Morocco at the peak of its imperial greatness.
Anyone who would have enjoyed a hammam treatment there during the 12th-century would consider themselves to be in the heart of a great empire where science, art, and architecture eclipsed anything its northern neighbors could produce.
A 12th-century visitor to the building would step out onto similar cobbled streets as are present today, yet the world would be a very different place. At the time, Seville had been a city in the heart of Al Andalus for 500 years, only changing hands between different Islamic rulers.
From the doorstep of what is today a tapas bar, one could travel south for thousands of miles, passing the then-capital in Marrakech, without ever leaving Morocco. To the east, Moroccan territory stretched well into modern-day Libya, establishing what is still to this day considered to be “the Maghreb.”
The delicate decorations and ingenious architecture uncovered in Seville this February shows the remaining legacy of Al Andalus, and the regional presence that Morocco has had for centuries.
While the Berber dynasty of the Almohads faded away in history, Morocco’s cultural links to the region cannot be denied. Whether visiting the hammam in the 12th-century or going for tapas there today, Morocco continues to be a regional power that is both appreciated and feared by its northern neighbors.