Turkey is a unique blend of European modernism with Asian and Islamic charm. Aside from the fascinating Turkish architecture, bazaars and textiles is a long-standing tradition that’s deeply embedded in Turkish culture. Turkish Baths, or Hammams as referred to in local parlance, are public bathing spaces that offer rejuvenation and unparalleled tranquillity.
This absolutely unprecedented experience, deeply rooted in the culture of the Ottoman Empire, is still a tourist favorite today. If you’re heading to Turkey, the experience is an absolute must-do in this mystical country! But, before you pack your favorite bathing suit, hold on!
Let’s understand precisely what is a Turkish bath, it’s history, benefits and how to prepare yourself for its modern variant.
The Fascinating Tradition Of Turkish Baths
Hammams borrow from the architectural style and mysticism of the Roman baths in terms of functionality structure and facilities. Turkish baths blend this with traditional Islamic steam bathing and the ritual of personal cleansing. Hence, the focal points in Turkish baths have always been water rather than steam. There are three sections in Turkish Baths – the cool room, the tepid room, and the hottest room.
Turkish Baths & Islamic Culture
Turkish baths have evolved from their Roman roots to cater to Islamic traditions of cleansing and purifications before prayer. As per Islamic culture, one most clean themselves before offering their prayers. Which is why most baths are located around mosques or places of worship. Additionally, Roman baths usually have a pool for cold water for submersion. Turkish baths, as per Islamic tradition, comply with a running stream of water for bathing and not submersion.
Benefits Of Turkish Baths
Turkish baths are extremely rejuvenating and calming not only to your physical senses but also your mental capacities. The luxurious massages and self-care products can put your neighbourhood spa to shame. What’s more? You can bask in this experience not just with your spouse but with all your close ones.
Public Turkish baths offer unparalleled peace and tranquillity with the soft splash of warm water. This indulgent experience is the best bit of pampering you can offer yourself amidst all the holiday activity and rush.
Aside from the therapeutic benefits, Turkish baths improve blood circulation by dilating blood vessels. It also works wonders on your skin by deeply cleansing the pores, leaving it hydrated, soft and glowing. The hottest room is an ideal all-body sauna bath that’s also useful in eradicating chest congestion and nasty flu.
Turkish baths are perfect to bid goodbye to lingering muscular aches and pains too. All of this while relaxing and basking in the wondrous Roman architecture you’re lounging in! With such a diverse pool of benefits, there’s no keeping away from those inviting Turkish baths!
Turkish Baths As A Means Of Socialization
Interestingly, Turkish baths during the Roman and Ottoman Empire were used more than just for health and purification. Hammams were places and means of socializing, relaxing and networking with friends. It was a tradition to consume fruits, sherbets and light refreshments in the bath.
Think of a Turkish bathhouse as a modern infinity pool, if you may. So much so that bridal bath ceremonies a day prior to the wedding was the norm back in the day. Unlike men, women went to baths in groups with a host of bathing accessories including combs, fragrant soaps, and mirrors.
Women also had different times of admission as opposed to men or separate quarters for their privacy. These baths were also part of the post-natal tradition with the customary 40th-day bath after the birth of a child. Baths were also taken as part of guest invites, prior to religious holidays and post-death mourning.
There really weren’t a dearth of reasons for the Turks to take this rejuvenating bath as often as possible.
Turkish Baths In The Modern Day
Should you find yourself in the captivating country of Turkey, you can either choose the traditional Hammam or baths within hotels. Either way, you’re in for a pleasurable experience.
The Complete Turkish Bath Experience
Aside from the traditional experience, you have options of reflexology, facial massages, clay body masks and a whole lot more. We suggest you go with the best, that is a traditional Turkish bath. You will have a trained attendant to bathe you and massage you. This experience is complete with their in-house cleansing and massaging products. Post this, you can lounge in the bath of your choice for as long as you wish.
If you’re wondering about etiquette in a Turkish bathhouse, we’ve got you covered. Check beforehand for timings when you can enjoy this experience with your spouse in an all-gender pool. You will be handed sandals and a Turkish bath towel to be worn around your waist at all times. Women can wear their underclothes under the wrap.
First up, you will be led to the hottest room to lounge and break into a sweat. Next, the masseuse soaks your body and lathers you with an all-natural lather, followed by a massage that’s sure to ease out every muscle in the body. You will then be scrubbed with a hand-knitted cloth and left to lounge in the hot room for as long as you wish. Post this, enjoy a relaxing cool-down process in the lukewarm and cold baths.
Massages in Turkish Baths
Back in the day, young male attendants were employed to massage male visitors to a Turkish bath. These boys, commonly known as tellaks, were sourced from non-Muslim countries associated with the Ottoman empire. These countries included Greece, Bulgaria, and Armenia among others. Most Turkish baths in the present, however, engage trained adults to massage guests.
Choosing The Right Bath For Your Comfort
Istanbul is sprinkled with over 60 inviting Turkish baths around town that offer varied experiences. For the more traditional touch, you could consider the Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami. If you’re on the looking for a rather private Turkish bath experience, Four Seasons or Istanbul EDITION are modern variants.
Head to one of these and enjoy unprecedented mental and physical relaxation and rejuvenation. We would absolutely recommend piecing in this elevating and utterly soothing experience as part of your holiday itinerary.