Hammam Turkish Bath – The Art of Relaxation

Culture Facts

Where: Found throughout Turkey
History: Mixing of Turks, Romans and Byzantine bathing culture and nowadays central to Islamic purifying beliefs
How to join in: Be prepared to strip, and get your delicate areas thoroughly peeled and steamed – then start to relax!

A Hammam or Turkish bath is a soft an relaxing heat, unlike the intensity of a sauna and a celebration of the ritual of cleansing and relaxation.

Hammams are situated all over the country. Hammam means “to heat” and draws on the benefits of steam and sweat which carries toxins from the bodies, and opens up the pores and the mind. Many years ago, if a man entered a woman’s Hammam or Woman entered a man’s, the punishment was death. Today the section are often situated next to one another but are still segregated.

The history of the Turkish bath extends from the Turks arrival in Anatolia, bringing with them their own bathing traditions which merged with that of the Romans and Byzantines. It soon became a way of life, a place where people of all ranks could mingle freely.

Important personal moment are celebrated in the bath, a new born babies 40th day on earth, and brides bathing before their marriage. The bride sits in the bath in her bridal veil as unmarried girls toss coins into the pool in the hope of commanding a suitable husband for themselves.

The Cagalolglu is the oldest existing bath in Istanbul and is nearly 400 years old. Decorated with pillars, arcs, arches and bubbling fountains, it’s the authentic Turkish bathing experience. Physical purification is half of the Muslim faith, and bathing has a strong religious significance. The bather strips naked and wears towels over heads, shoulders and the waist and wears lob cob (wooden clogs) on their feet. The towels are shed in the harara, a steam room. The tellak purges the room of phantoms, thought to linger in steam.

There are five stages during the hammam:

1. Seasoning of the body with heat

2. Vigorous massage

3. Peeling off the outer layers of the skin and removing body hair (tozu). Removing off unnecessary hairs, armpit and pubic is a hygiene measure in hot countries.

4. Soaping

5. Relaxation.

A typical Istanbul full service hammam will set you back around $40, but in the Turkish countryside this can be as little as $10.

More Information

Mediterranean Baths
Visiting the modern Hammam in Ankara and Istanbul, one man’s personal journey.

Create a Turkish bath
Substance’s guide to creating your own Turkish Bath at home.

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