Background: Near Mary's Well and underneath a small souvenir shop called Cactus, there lies an ancient public bathhouse, reportedly dating to Jesus' time. Discovered in 1993 by the shop's owner Elias Shama, the unearthed site still bears its well-preserved hot room (sauna), underfloor heating and vent system as well as the ancient furnace. Because it is (so far) the only public bathhouse in Nazareth, it is claimed that Mary and, by inference, also Jesus, may have bathed here.
PRO: It is so close to Mary's Well and to St. Gabriel's Church that it can be easily included as part of any tour of the Orthodox Church of Annunciation. The gift shop offers traditionally-made souvenirs, crafts, jewelry and the like. The guided tour is led by the owner himself and thus possess intimate knowledge of the excavation site. Reservations, though recommended, are not required. Complimentary coffee and cake is included after the tour.
CON: The only access is through the Cactus gift shop, and the owner charges a flat rate of £22 (up to a group of 4 people) for entrance into the bathhouse. That's way too expensive for solo visitors! There's only one tour guide. Without prior reservations, you may have to wait long for another group to finish before entering. Most importantly, the age and nature of the bathhouse is still under controversy, as not all experts agree.
Verdict: An interesting archeological site, for sure, but it is expensive for solo travelers. It loses one star for poor monetary value. However, considering that the excavator (Elias) is neither funded by the government nor by the academia, he can be forgiven for that slight. Perhaps, if he pro-rated his admission fee, then... Otherwise, if going solo, wait for a group to visit and then join them. It's a coin toss for me. Your call.
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