The hammam, also known as the Turkish hamam or Turkish bath, is the Middle Eastern variant of a steam bath, which can be categorized as a wet relative of the sauna. Although the first hammams originated in Arabia, and bath culture was a central part of Roman life, Turkey popularized the tradition (and is most often associated with it) by making hammams available to people of all statuses.
What is it like?
The hammam ritual is rather simple, but it does involve several steps--all aimed at cleansing and relaxing--which many modern-day hammams still utilize. Typically, the treatment lasted a set period of time, but visitors were free to lounge in the cooling areas for as long as they liked.
1. Relax and Prepare
As you enter the camekan, or entrance room, there are areas for changing and a place to have a cup of tea or a cold drink before or after the bath.
2.Adjust to the warmth
Before you encounter water, the specialist will bring you to a transition area, the iliklik, or intermediate room, where you receive your towels and adjust to the heat.
3.Full Body Scrub and Soap Massage
From there you enter the hararet, or hot room, which houses the large marble belly or navel stone. Bathers, arranged on marble slabs around the fountain, alternate basking in the high humidity and being vigorously--and thoroughly--scrubbed by an attendant. Following the scrubbing, there is application of special soap (including shampoo, if requested).
The History of Hamam
A Tradition that's been revised over the years by a number of cultures, Hammams go beyond their place in Turkish History- Many are popping up today in the U.S. as contemporary versions of their ancient counterparts. These Humid-Room-Meets-Detoxifying-Scrub-And-Cleansing session go beyond the typical spa treatment with influences that reflect an authentic ancient ritual.
In Turkey, hammams were viewed as social centers where special occasions were celebrated. Even wealthy people who had access to hammams in their own homes would frequent public ones for the social and business aspects.
Most hammams had spiritual components, and, according to some religions, washing was an essential part of worship. It is this purification factor that is attributed to making hammams a part of everyday life.
Structure of Hamam
The sicaklik (also known as the hararet, caldarium or hot room) is a large marbletiled room with a Göbek tasi (marble slab called a belly or navel stone) raised in the center, surrounded by alcoves of corners and benches. This is where individuals relax enjoying the skin-softening humidity, and where the scrubs, soaping and massages are administered.