The hamam is a Turkish steam bath, which cleanses the body physically as well as mentally. The tradition goes back as far as the middle ages and was developed through a combination of the Roman, Turkish and Byzantine bath cultures. In the beginning it was a privilege reserved for the upper classes, but Islam’s strict cleanliness requirements wanted everyone to benefit from the public baths. It was very important to ensure men and women were kept apart during the relaxation and cleaning ceremonies. A visit to a hamam was not only a means to cleanse oneself but it was also a place to socialise, conduct a meeting, relax or enjoy beauty treatments. Nowadays, the religious aspect has faded more and more into the background and the hammam has become an oasis for tranquillity and relaxation.
The hamam ceremony takes place in three different rooms. The first room, which is called a sogunmalik or camekan, is the changing room. Clothing is exchanged for a wraparound garment, called a pestemal. After changing, a shower is taken to wash away the day’s grime.
In the steam room, sicaklil or hararet, a large marble stone is warmed from underneath. The client lies down on the hot stone, which is heated to 40 or 50 degrees, to encourage perspiration. During this procedure, the pores of the skin open up and the muscles relax. Afterwards, a bath servant, a telak, massages the body with a wash using an exfoliation glove, known as a kese, which is normally made from goat’s fur. The massage removes dead skin and improves blood circulation. The body is then washed down with warm water. Following this cleansing massage the client experiences a more relaxing foam massage. The entire body is covered in foam using a fragrant soap, massaged into the body and again, washed down with warm water. To finish, cold water is used to stabilise the circulation.
After the treatment the client goes to a cold room, a sogukluk, to cool down and relax whilst enjoying a traditional tea.
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