the thermal baths and the legend of hammam meskhoutine


Algeria’s Hammam Meskhoutine [ حمام المسخوطين ] or, “the bath of the damned,” is located fifteen kilometers from the city of Guelma in the northeastern part of the country and is one of the many spas in the region. The temperature of the water at Hammam Meskhoutine is equal to or hotter than that of the geysers of Iceland, as it reaches a temperature of 207° F [97° C]. In fact, when ai visited I saw many people boiling eggs directly in the water. Over the years the water has built an impressive natural limestone formation over which a waterfall cascades to the ground.

While this is one of many thermal sites in northern Algeria, it is one of the most spectacular due to the natural formations that can be seen. Equally as interesting, the name for this particular site comes from the legend of Hammam Meskhoutine:

Many years ago, in this region of Algeria lived a powerful tribe that was feared across the land. A child was born to this tribe and early on he exhibited a high intelligence. As an adult he became the fiercest warrior in the tribe. The warrior had a sister who was the most beautiful woman in the entire region. As the warrior became known across the land he searched for a bride, but no one was to his liking. Due to her beauty, the only one that pleased him was his own sister, who did not oppose his advances.
The people of the region were outraged, but nonetheless the warrior went ahead with a wedding, set on the most beautiful hill in the valley. Many people did not attend in protest, and stayed away from the wedding festivities. Weeks later, upon the people’s return to the hill, they were confronted by a frightening scene: the moment the brother and sister were to be married they, and all of their guests were petrified.  This appalling scene is still to be seen today at the same place, the two married and petrified, still there looking at their guests talking and listening to music – a lesson to us for all eternity.