Turkish Hamam

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A Turkish hamam is a Middle Eastern steam bath which is somewhat similar to the sauna but with the inclusion of water. It is closely related to the Roman bath and has its origins in the bathing practices of the ancient Romans. It evolved from a respect for water which is less plentiful in harsh dry climates.

The term ‘hamam’ is a vernacular Arabic word for ‘bathroom’. It consists of three rooms connected to each other by corridors. They are known as the hot room, the warm room and the cold room. Bathers in a Turkish hamam will first go to the warm room. Here they will relax in a room that is heated by a continuous flow of hot dry air. In this room, bathers will begin to sweat heavily.

They will then go to the hot room which is even hotter than the warm room. After perspiring more, bathers splash themselves with cold water to cool down. They will wash their body entirely before receiving a relaxing massage. Then bathers will go to the cool room to relax.

The warm room of the Turkish hamam contains a large marble stone in the centre. Here is where customers lie down. The dome of the warm room is decorated with small glass windows that don’t let in the full sunlight. Hence the warm room is bathed in a half light. There are fountains in niches and the steam makes patrons perspire heavily.

In the cold room, bathers will refresh themselves with tea, dress up or take a brief nap in one of the private cubicles. Here is also where patrons will relax and mingle or converse with one another. Women can bathe separately from men in a Turkish hamam.

Masseurs In A Turkish Hamam

During the Ottoman Empire, masseurs in a Turkish hamam were young boys who had been captured from non Muslim countries in the realm. Many came from Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Armenia. They were known as tellak and their role was to wash and soap male patrons. Nowadays, only adults are tellak.

The Turkish hamam is a convenient social gathering spot for both men and women alike. The relaxing and cleansing rituals in the hamam have become a staple of Turkish life which is a strong tourist attraction.

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