Excavations in the center of Loulé have revealed a complex of Islamic public baths, possibly the most complete of its type in the Iberian Peninsula, according to municipal archaeologists.
In addition to warm, tepid and cold bathing rooms, careful digging has uncovered cold tanks, latrines and patios. These public baths are an extensive record of Islamic life and date from late in the period of the Moorish occupation.
The discovery was made as a trench was being dug for the installation of a rainwater collection junction box. These bathing complexes usually stood at city entrances so that travelers could wash before going about their business, Loulé's baths are near one of the old gateways to the walled city.
The council archaeologist believes that, as this is the only Islamic bathhouse site in Portugal, the discovery may help boost the city's cultural heritage and consequent tourism – it certainly has got the interest of the country’s scientific community.
Inês Simão from the contractor carrying out the work in the historical center of the city said that the excavation works are finished, the discoveries have been logged and registered and now the site will be backfilled so the remains can be preserved. Later the city council will consult and decide the best way forward for this national treasure which is in a rather inconvenient place.
The council already has announced it will work with the Campo Arqueológico de Mértola at a later date to analyse and work out how best to display these important remains, but until this project is implemented the baths will remain buried.
There are plenty Islamic era baths in Spain but these are in palaces and grand villas. The Portuguese baths differ as they were for general public use and located at the city gates to encourage general hygiene.