In Damascus, we literally had a Bath Room. It was an entire room, entirely tiled: floor, ceiling, walls. This made for super easy cleaning - we just soaped the whole thing up with Dettol (pine scent, mmmm...) and sprayed it down. There was a drain in the corner and to dry off the floor after a shower or cleaning, we used one of those ubiquitous oversized squeegees that you've certainly come across if you've spent any time in the Middle East to push all the water down into it. Theoretically, the water would have drained out pretty efficiently by itself, but in a classic example of shoddy workmanship, the drain was not located at the lowest point of the bathroom. So it was literally an uphill battle to get all the water drained out.
Another neat feature of our Bath Room in Damascus was that there was an electrical outlet on the wall right next to the showerhead ("dush telefon" - a telephone showerhead). There was also a button in the bathroom that, when pressed, sounded a buzzer throughout the house. Purpose: unknown.
It was fun to have such a functional bathroom. You could literally take a shower, sit on the toilet, and brush your teeth at the sink all at the same time.
Having actual hot water in the bathroom was another story, and a common theme throughout our showering experiences in the Middle East. The specifications of each system vary, but in general, we had to plan ahead to acquire a limited supply of hot water by flipping a switch. The longer you left the switch on, the more hot water you'd get. We had to be careful, though - the fuel used to heat the water (mazzot) was expensive. There were a few times we accidentally left the switch on while we were at church or wherever, and we'd spend the rest of the day finding tasks to do that required the water we'd inadvertently heated up so it didn't go to waste. It's weird how your life starts to revolve around hot water like that.
Sometimes we just went entirely without hot water. I didn't take a hot shower in Damascus for a few months after moving there. We didn't have any mazzot in our tank, so we just did without during the summer. We ran out again a few weeks before leaving the country and rather than pay to have the tank filled up again, we resigned ourselves to cold showers.
Another time we had to take cold showers on a regular basis was at our apartment in Jebel Webdeh in Amman, Jordan. First of all, the water pressure on the cold side of the tap was ten times stronger than the hot side (but still abysmally weak). Then, we discovered that there was an electrical current running through the water coming out of the showerhead. YIKES. It was all bucket showers after that.
Ah yes, bucket showers. I don't know if that's a universal term or one that Jeremy and I made up, but it means you use a little water to soap up and then a bucket or bowl of water to rinse off. You see, the water supply in every apartment we lived in was very limited. We had a tank on our roof and maybe another one in the basement of the apartment building if we were lucky. When the tank on the roof ran out, we could pump up the water from the basement. When that ran out, we were high and dry until the neighborhood's weekly water delivery day. The entire summer of 2007, I didn't take a single shower. I bathed in about two inches of water in the bathtub. It's an art, and it's one that I mastered. Our efforts paid off - I think we ran out of water only a couple of times that summer.
I have to admit, it's nice to know that in America, I can take a hot shower pretty much any time I want to. As long as Magdalena isn't on the loose, that is.