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Turkish Hamam Therapy Print E-mail

The Secrets of Hamam


 The Turkish Hamam (also Turkish Bath or Hamam) is the Midle Eastern variant of a steam bath, which can be categorized as a wet relative of the sauna. They had played an important role in cultures of the Middle-East, serving as places of social-cultural gathering, ritual cleansing, healing treatments and as architectural structures, institutions, and (later) elements with special customs attached to them. Europeans learned about the Hamam via contacts with Turkey hence the European name for it: "Turkish" hamam.

Taking a Turkish Hamam firstly involves relaxing in a room (known as the iliklik) that is heated by a continuous flow of hot dry air allowing the client to perspire freely.  May then move to an ever hotter room (known as the hararet) before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and receiving a massage, clients finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation.

In Turkey, the advent of modern plumbing systems, showers, and bathtubs in homes caused the importance of hamams to fade in past 20 years. But  the importance of Hamams comes back in recent times. 

More Than A Bath

The tradition of the Turkish Hamam extends far back, to a time before Turks had reached Anatolia. When the Turks arrived in Anatolia, they brought with them one bathing tradition, and were confronted with another, that of Romans and Byzantines, with certain local variants. The traditions merged, and with the addition of the Moslem concern for cleanliness and its concomitant respect for the uses of water, there arose an entirely new concept, that of the Turkish Hamam. In time it became an institution, with its system of ineradicable customs.

In the past Turkish Hamam was much more than just a place to cleanse the skin. It was intimately bound up with everyday life, a place where people of every rank and station, young and old, rich an poor, townsman or villager, could come freely. Woman as well as men made use of the "hamam", as the bath is known in Turkish, although of course at separate hours.

In this days and age Hamams known the real spas, and more than just a spa. Because, Hamams offer many different options, not only washing. For example: Detoxification, body care, massage, stone therapy, hot-cold water, heat, steam, and more... 

Unique atmosphere: When we have so much more potential stress in our lives we need to find more ways to relax. Hamam provide a time and place to relax and disconnect from the world as you recharge your mind, body and spirit.  The opportunity to bring your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves back into alignment. In whatever amount of time you can afford, Hamams provide peace, relaxation and guidance to help create a healthier lifestyle. This tradition of relaxation can make you feel stripped of your troubles, relaxed and free of tension.

From the individual's point of view, the hamam was a familiar place from the earliest weeks of life right up to its very end. Important occasions during a lifespan were, and in some township still are, celebrated with rejoicing at the bath. The newborn's fortieth day, the brides bathing complete with food and live music, and the Avowal are instances. The latter requires some explanation, for it involved the custom common in Anatolia of making a promise or vow, contingent on the fulfillment of some important wish. The celebration of this in the hamam was arranged and paid for by the person fulfilling his vow, and was open to one and all.

The Hamam ceremony of mourning, on the other hand, was far different, but also widespread. The Hospitality bathing was simply the taking of one's house-guest to the hamam for a wash. Then there were the Circumcision, Groom's, and Off-to-the-Army bathings, and others besides. As we see, the whole culture of a people had the Turkish Hamam as one of its important nexuses.

Naturally, there was a range of equipment associated with a hamam visit, and until recently one might count from 15 to 20 articles in the bundle which a woman brought along with her.

Accessories and Equipments of Hamam
The "pestemal" (pesh-te-mahl), a large towel fringed at both ends and wrapped around the torso, from below the armpits to about mid-thigh , as the woman made her way to the "kurna" or marble basin.  The pestemal would be striped or checked, a colored mixture of silk and cotton, or pure cotton, or even pure silk.

A pair of wooden clogs or patens, in Tutkish "nalin", of which there were many varied types. Carved exquisitely, these patens kept the wearer's feet clear of the wet floor. They would be embellished in a number of ways, most often with mother-of-pearl, or even sheathed in tooled silver. They might have jingles, or a woven straw sheath, or be applied with felt or brass.

The "tas", or bowl for pouring water over the body, was always of metal. Weather silver, gilt or tinned copper, or of brass, the tas always had grooved and inlaid ornamentation.

One finds a soap case of metal, usually copper, with a handle on top like a handbag, and perforated at the bottom to allow water to run out. Not only soap goes into such a case, but also a coarse mitt for scouring down the skin, a webbing of date-palm or other fibers for lathering on the soap, and combs both fine and broad-toothed made of horn or ivory.

The "kese" (keh-seh), that rough cloth mitt carried in the soap case, not only scoured the dirt out of the pores, but served to deliver a bracing massage. The soaping web, on the other hand, was specially woven out of hair or plant fibers.

Architecture

 The Hamam combines the functionality and the structural elements of its predecessors in Anatolia, the Roman thermae and Byzantine baths, with the Turkish-Muslim tradition of bathing, ritual cleansing and respect of water. It is also known that Arabs have built many of their own version of the Greek-Roman baths they encountered following their conquests of Alexandria. However, the Turkish Hamam has a more improved style and functionality from these structures that emerged as annex buildings of mosques or as re-use of the remaining Roman baths.

The Hamams in the Ottoman culture started out as structural elements serving as annexes to mosques, however quickly evolved into institutions and eventually with the works of the Ottoman architect Sinan, into monumental structural complexes, the finest example being the Çemberlitaş Hamam in Istanbul, built in 1584.

A typical Hamam consists of three interconnected basic rooms similar to its Roman ancestors: the sıcaklık (or hararet -caldarium) which is the hot room, the warm room (tepidarium) which is the intermediate room and the soğukluk which is the cool room.

The sıcaklık usually has a large dome decorated with small glass windows that create a half-light; it also contains a large marble stone at the center that the customers lie on, and niches with fountains in the corners. This room is for soaking up steam and getting scrub massages. The warm room is used for washing up with soap and water and the soğukluk is to relax, dress up, have a refreshing drink, sometimes tea, and where available, nap in private cubicles after the massage.

The Hamam, like its early precursors, Roman (at least pre-Christian) thermae, is not exclusive to men only - Hamam complexes usually contain separate quarters for men and women. Being social centers, in the Ottoman Empire, Hamams were quite abundant, and were built in almost every Ottoman city. Integrated in daily life, they were centers of social gatherings, populated on almost every occasion with traditional entertainment (e.g. dancing and food, especially in the women's quarters) and ceremonies, such as before weddings, high-holidays, celebrating newborns, beauty trips etc.

There existed some special accessories of which some still are being used at modern hamams: such as the peştemal (a special cloth of silk and/or cotton, to cover the body, like pareos), nalın (special wooden clogs that would prevent the wearer from slipping on the wet floor, often decorated with silver or mother-of-pearl), kese and sometimes jewel boxes, gilded soap boxes, mirrors, henna bowls, perfume bottles and such.

Related Links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammam
www.allaboutturkey.com/hamam.htm
http://spas.about.com/od/spahistoryandculture/a/turkishbaths.htm

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