What is Turkish Bath: Hammam, Rituals and Benefits
Before you decide what type of bathrobe to buy for your spa, hammam and bath time, let us examine what Hammam is. Turkish baths have an important place in Turkish culture. Hammam culture, a tradition that has come from ancient times, creates a relaxing and purifying effect for the body. While resting and renewing your body, it also nourishes your soul with its massages.
What is Turkish Bath?
The meaning of Hammam (known as Turkish Bath) is of Arabic origin and means heating and being warm. Since ancient times, most communities have Hammam in different forms.
Turks, especially the Ottomans gave importance to the baths due to the importance given to cleaning and Hamam culture has come to the present day.
During the Ottoman period, many public baths were built. Apart from these, small baths were built in old houses, mansions and near the waterside mansions.
But today, when the ‘What is Turkish Bath?’ question is asked, the answer is that they are the small places giving bath and traditional massage services. In Turkey, hotels and most spa centers includes a small Hammam section.
Traditional and Ancient Turkish Bath
In response to the question of ‘What is Hammam or Turkish Bath’, the best explanation is given by telling the history of the bath. Hamam culture is based on the Roman Empire, but it is a tradition associated with Turkish culture.
Traditional Turkish Hammam is called as the place which helps muscles to relax, body to rest, spiritual and physical dirt can be purification. In the early period of the Ottoman people, cleaning was an important and vital necessity, so they usually went to the baths as there were no bathing facilities in their homes. Going to a hammam is a very common and traditional activity. Especially women, once a week, went to the hammam together, they were cleaned there and together they would eat and have fun.
Traditional Turkish Bath, unlike home baths, is constantly hot and humidity is quite high. This warm environment allows the muscles of the body to relax and rests the body. In the hammam hot and steam effect helps skin to get rid of dead skin and facilitates the opening of pores. Turkish baths have taken their place among the secrets of beauty of Ottoman women.
In the Turkish Bath, people could comfortably relax, bath, and warm their bodies. Since it was not often possible to go to the baths in old times, the pouch was made by bath attendant or masseur when it was going. These masseurs are called as ‘tellak’ in Turkish. This tradition has come the same way to to the present day. Still masseurs called as tellak are found in the Hammam and they provide traditional massage services. The names of the masseurs are different for women and men.
Structure of Hammam
Turkish Hammam is differ from other baths in several ways. The most important role in this difference is the internal structural changes. Turkish baths generally consists of three parts as dressing, washing and heating. The dressing section is where visitors changing clothes before and after the bath.
Today, dressing sections are made as cabins or rooms. Washing section is the main section of the Hammam, where visitors clean, bath and rest. The washing section actually consists of three parts. Kurna; the place of hot and cold water taps and where people wash, Halvet; the closed area where people use and wash alone and Göbektaşı is a humid steam chamber, the central, raised platform above the heating source. Heating section is located under the Hammam and the heater welding works continuously. This heater is used to heat both the water and the bath.
Traditional Turkish Bath Rituals
People ask the question of what is used in the Turkish Bath and what are the Hammam rituals as much as they ask for ‘What is Turkish Bath’. The basic principle of the Hammam is cleaning from head to toe. The main ritual is that washing and thoroughly exfoliating your body. There are some types of services such as traditional style, just exfoliating style or other styles which contain massages and facial or body masks. Or you can just take a self-service and you bathe yourself, bring your own soap, shampoo and towel. In self-service you only pat the entrance fee.
In Traditional Style service; a bath attendant will wash and massage you for about 15 - 20 minutes, and you don’t have to bring any of the equipment.
Other Styles; contain several massage and mask types like oil massage, foam massage, reflexology, body and facial clay masks.
The hammam ritual is start with the relax and rest in the hot room and hot water. Here is the steps of Hammam Ritual;
- After you changed your clothes and wrap your peştemal to your body, it starts in a humid steam room for softening the body skin and to make easier scrubbing.
- You should stay 10 to 15 minutes in the hot room.
- When the skin softens, the dead skin is removed exfoliating it with a kessa glove by Tellak, a bath attendant on the ,göbektaşı, hot chamber.
- After the body is completely peeling, dead skins are removed with water.
- Then start the foam massage with a soft pouch the bath attendant lathered you with a sudsy swab.
- And then the traditional foam massage begins. The body muscles are massaged sometimes hard and sometimes relaxing.
- In the final, the Tellak rinses you with warm water and all the ritual ends. However, if you want to get a mask, mask is applied to the face and wait for 15 minutes, then washed.
- After your massage finished, bath attendant takes you to the cooling or intermediate room to cooling down. The cooling place actually in the same place with showers and toilets.
- You can take a shower, if you want and go to change your clothes.
What Equipments are Used in the Turkish Bath?
The peshtemal is the most-known Turkish Bath equipment with its traditional patterns. People love peshtemal’s traditional pattern and it reminds people of past times. Peshtemal is used to wrap your body in the Hammam.
The second equipment is a ‘kessa glove’ or a bath pouch which is a bit hard and it has special texture to give good peeling to the body. The kesse glove is the modern synthetic equivalent of the original Oriental hand-knitted wash cloth.
The other equipments you need in the Hammam are soap, shampoo and towel. The sandals are given to you in the Hammam but if you wouldn’t want to wear them you should bring your own slippers. Be careful not to slip and fall.