Syrian men have for centuries been bathing in traditional hammams, or bathhouses.
The tradition continues in Damascus today - and provides a brief escape from the turmoil of a country in civil war.
Here in the Al-Malik al-Zahir bathhouse in the old city of Damascus, the timeless tradition of public bathing continues.
It is hard to imagine the conflict raging elsewhere in Syria, when here all is tranquillity.
The sound of splashing water, the patter of wooden clogs, men's quiet conversation.
The hammam is a tradition that goes back centuries and still follows the same routine.
Bathers change out of their clothes, wrap a cloth round their waist and put on a pair of wooden clogs, or "kabkabs".
Attendants hand each bather a bowl containing soap and a sponge.
Bathers then shower before progressing into the inner steam room.
The owner and manager Bassam Kabab says the Al-Malik al-Zahir hammam is more than a thousand years old.
"Al-Malik al-Zahir bathhouse is considered the oldest Hammam in Syria and it might be the oldest in the world," he says. "What I am sure of hundred percent is that it is the oldest in Syria. It was built in 985 A.D. which means it is 1,029 years old."
Once in the steam room, some bathers choose to have an attendant give them an invigorating exfoliating back rub, or a relaxing massage.
At the end, swaddled in fresh robes to dry off, bathers relax with a hot mint tea and a hookah pipe, known an argilah, a water pipe used for smoking flavoured tobacco.
Although the hammam still attracts locals, tourists no longer visit due to the Syrian conflict.
"There are two kinds of customers of the bathhouse: locals and tourists. Nowadays only locals visit the Hammam because tourism is not like in the old days. In winter, locals used to come to the Hammam, while in the spring and summer most of our customers used to be tourists, both Arabs and foreigners," Kabab says.
The Romans introduced public bath houses to Syria when the land was part of the Roman Empire and the tradition has remained popular ever since.
The hammam became an important place for the local community and there used to be hundreds in Damascus alone.
But as modern bathrooms in Syrian homes replace public bathing, the popularity of hammams is waning and there are now fewer than 20 left in the capital, according to research by travel writer Richard Boggs.
The Al-Malik al-Zahir hammam still attracts loyal customers, however:
"I have been coming to the bathhouse my whole life. I have done it for the last 30 or 40 years. It is bliss for me. When I have pain in my feet or back, I come here to get refreshed. I love coming to the bathhouse," says one regular, Khalil.
Although the bathhouse is a tranquil haven, it is still affected by the turmoil of Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 190,000 people and left much of the country in ruins.
"We have problems with the water and electricity, even with the fuel. But we are managing to solve this problem and run the bathhouse," says Kabab.
Although the Syrian capital has been heavily protected by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, rebel mortar attacks on government-controlled areas have become daily occurrences.
For his customers, however, Kabab's hammam can provide some respite from the world outside.
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