Basically a steam bath, in Turkish called Hamam is now-a-days the most relaxing way for the tourists who are on holiday in Turkey.
During the Ottoman times, turkish baths were places to socialize, to bath and to get together. It was when Europeans learned about Turkish Baths.
In especially Western Europe, it was Victorian era when Turkish Baths became the method of getting clean and relaxing.
The word “hamam” derives from hammam in Arabic which means heat. Turkish baths during the Ottomans started as annex buildings of mosques but very quickly turned into monumental structural complexes, especially with the works of the famous Ottoman architect Sinan.
Hamam consists of three rooms called “sicaklik” (hot room), and ”sogukluk” (cool room).
Sicaklik is used for soaking up steam and getting massage. The warm room is for washing up with a soap and sogukluk is used for relaxing, dressing upand have a drink.
Turkish Baths have separated quarters for men and women. Especially for women, turkish baths were the best places to get together before weddings, holidays and such celebrations.
There are some accessories which are used in hamam, like pestemal, nalin and kese.
Pestemal is a piece of cloth made of silk or cotton, to cover the body, used as towels. Nalin is a wooden clog, worn in the Turkish Bath, to prevent slipping. Kese is a rough mitt for massage to take off the dead skin.
The Turkish bath is one of the ancient world’s most widely exported customs. The tradition of the Turkish bath was born generations ago, adopted from Romans and Byzantines and then perfected by the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks and has continued even until today.
What happens in a Hamam:
The ritual is simple. A hot room filled with the sound of splashing water, the scent of soap, and wafting steam through which daily concerns and worries cannot penetrate. In the gentle moist heat your body relaxes, and your nerves are soothed. You sit down at one of the marble wash basins which line the walls, and adjusting the temperature of the water to a delicious warmth, dip the copper bathing bowl into the basin and tip the water over your head and body. Waves of relaxation seem to pour right through you as the water envelops your body.
Laying on the warm stone in the center of the room, your attendant (tellak for men and natir for women) will pour hot water on you and begin to scrub every square inch of your body. Basically, every millimeter of dead and dirty skin is scrubbed off, even the skin between your fingers and toes.
Afterwards you are lathered with liquid soap and shampoo and given the choice of massage options (a little bit painful for the first time, but said to be well worth it). After the massage, the attendant will wash you from head to toe again as if you are a small child. One last shower and then it is time to leave the Sicaklik.
Then you are given fresh towels and again brought to the cool room to rest, dry off and marvel at your glowing, soft as a baby’s skin.