An article written by Solstice
The "Turkish bath", or Hamam as it is known in Turkey, became popular in the nineteenth century. The Hamam is similar to a sauna, but even more similar to Roman and Greek bathing systems. Upon entering a Hamam, you come to a warm marble room to perspire. When you are ready, you may continue to an even hotter room until you are called for your massage and peel. When you are completely washed, scrubbed and shampooed by an attendant, you sit in the warm room until you are dry enough to dress.
The Hamam combines the functions and the structures, the Roman thermae and Eastern Roman baths, with the Turkish tradition of steam bathing, ritual cleansing and respect of water. The Arabs built versions of the Greek-Roman baths that they discovered after their conquest over Alexandria, Egypt. The idea of public bathing such as occurs in a Hamam came to Islam only because of the exposure to Roman and the Greek baths. Hamams were attached to mosques because the Hamams aided Muslims in complying with the Islamic laws of cleanliness and purification. Soon after, more elaborate bath houses were built apart from the mosque in the communities.
At first, only men were allowed in the Hamams. In time, because of hygiene benefits, women were allowed to attend a Hamam after giving birth or after an illness. Soon, all Muslim women were not to be denied this experience and were permitted to bathe in the Hamam.
Bathing at the Hamams became one of the only times that women were allowed to socialize outside of their homes. They would go to the Hamam all day and were permitted to take their veils off and enjoy life. They would scope out potential daughter in laws as well, sometimes even kissing young women to see if they had bad breath. Meera Sarin, who has recently visited a Hamam in Turkey, said her favorite part of the Hamam was sharing the experience with her daughter. "I was thinking that when the Islamic women came here it was their only opportunity to socialize, and i thought how nice that I'm having an experience like this with my own daughter. Although we are lucky enough to have many other opportunities to socialize."
The Hamam is a very relaxing, social and rejuvenating experience. Mike Toews went to the Cinci Hamam in Safranbolu just yesterday. When asked what the biggest difference was between a spa in Canada and a Turkish Hamam, Toews noted, "I had a Turkish masseuse, the only masseuse I've ever had in Canada was a Canadian masseuse. How it was exactly as I thought it would be, was this big, pot-bellied Turk with a stereotypical curled up mustache came in and started working me over."
The Cicni Hamam was built in the seventeenth century by Cinci Hodja. There are two separate parts to the Hamam, one for the women and another for the men. Toews added, "My favorite part was the sweating of my sins away in the sauna and then stepping out into the bigger central area with the large dome and splashing cold water on myself to try and cool down." Toews continued, "What I did like was the combination of marble, water and heat. The other great experience was the echo of the sounds as the acoustics were so great in the Hamam... The sound reminds me of the call to prayer and that is a very distinct sound."
The full body massage and the peel are very unique experiences. As Sarin illustrates. "I think what surprised me the most was the pummeling that I got with the body scrub and the layers of filth that it took off of me! I felt 10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. The masseuse was completely working it! Every time she finished a section she would pour a bucket of cold water on herself." What surprised Toews the most was that there were no instructions. "They just throw you through a door and you have to figure it our yourself! The pummeling was good, but what remember the most is the big pillow of soap that is pressed upon you!" Sarin and Toews both shared the thought of enjoying the thorough Hamam experience.
When in Turkey, do as the Turks have done for centuries. Indulge yourself with the social and rejuvenating Hamam. There are Hamams in almost every village, town and city in Turkey. For the most authentic experience, visit a Hamam with a dome exterior and a marble interior!
Solstice Sarin Toews <3