Have you ever been to a Turkish Bath?
You should experience this tradition.
Delightful pleasure under the brilliant dome
This is a great tradition with its brilliant domes, tellaks, natırs and embroidered walls that remains from the glorious days of the Ottoman Era.
It all began with curiosity. It seemed strange not to have ever visited a Turkish Bath as a person grown up in a city and culture famous for its baths. What were these places like, renowned world wide as “Turkish Baths”? A place where both native and foreigner enjoys; and which have been the subject of movies and also provide perfect acoustics for music videos? Therefore, get ready for delightful pleasure under the brilliant dome.
Before going, I explored the history of the Turkish Bath from several sources. The word “hamam” means “to warm up” or “heat” in the Arabic language. But the origin of the “hamam” goes back to the Roman Age. After Bursa became the capital city, the Ottoman carried on the bath tradition of the Roman Empire and Byzantium.
The Turkish Bath turned into a tradition in the glorious days of the Ottoman. After the conquest, baths were built at all corners of Istanbul. The records state that in the period of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, 19 baths were built in Istanbul and Evliya Çelebi’s writings indicate that in the 17th century there were 168 bazaar baths in Istanbul.
Evidently, the bath tradition has an important place in the daily life of the Istanbulites. And this culture is enriched with various traditions, where the bath is visited on certain special occasions.
In the old days, bathing did not consist only of washing. There were several rituals involved. The preparations started the day before, by informing the neighbors, preparing meals like stuffed vegetables, pastry and fruit.
Baths were especially vital places for women. Mothers chose brides, women chatted and gossiped and entertaining activities accompanied with music were organized. Women also showed off with their new jewelry and clothes. They even had the right to divorce if their husbands did not allow them to go to a bath twice a week!
Although this tradition is no longer followed, Turkish baths still attract the curiosity of natives and foreigners.
This is called “heat”
As soon as you take a step into the outer door of the bath, you feel slight heat on your face. After you leave your stuff in the changing room, you put on your loincloths called “peştamal” and special slippers “takunya” and go into the bathroom and move into the bath proper. The first target area is “heat room”, the warmest place of the bath.
The “Heat room” is an octagon room with a 50 cm high marble platform, heated from the ground, namely “göbek taşı”. You should lie down to relax your muscles and get ready to rub your skin. You may feel too hot at first but your body adjusts soon and your bones get warm and you begin to feel relaxed. In the other parts of the “heat room” there are special sections called “halvet”. In the halvets you may find marble basins, for personal bathing. You may get soaped and washed in the kurnas.
However the main event in a Turkish bath is the rubbing process. You lie down on the heated marble and the natır, the female bath attendant, (for men, the “tellal”, and male bath attendant) rubs you until you get relaxed. Then soaping and massage begins. You become clean and purified from your distress, all your burdens evaporate and vanish.
After the bathing episode is completed, you will surely feel a pleasant laziness. Then you should not hurry, for you may stay in the “heat room” as long as you wish. Meanwhile, you may double your joy with an icy soda water.
We got cleaned and it’s time to go. Now I understand much better why they say “If you go into a bath, you get sweaty”. Albeit this proverb gives the message, “If you set out to do something, you should be ready to confront with all its difficulties”. At first it seems to be a difficult to go in a bath and to sweat. But you get used to it pretty soon.
After a bath pleasure of 2 hours you will get heartily thirsty. When you step out with pinky cheeks, you will see how relaxed you are and I am sure that you will enjoy a sweet sleep when you get home.