The word hammam, which is of Arabic origin, means a bathing area with hot and cold water. In the life of the Turks, hammams were not only a place for bathing but also centers for health, and social and cultural activities. The hammams, which are constantly hot and have very high humidity, provide relief and relaxation by allowing the muscles to relax. The most important reason for this is that it softens the skin and allows the upper layers to be easily peeled off and facilitates cleaning. The use of water, which is one of the vital needs of human beings, for health purposes, has led to the construction of water spaces such as baths and spas. Baths, which are one of these building types, especially meet the washing and cleaning needs of people. From the past to the present, in addition to the purpose of protecting general health such as bathing, purification, beauty, and staying vigorous, bath applications are also used to get rid of some ailments. In short, hammams are health, social and cultural centers that go beyond just scrubbing and bathing, and provide body treatments for bodily and spiritual purification, holistic therapy, treatment through massage, and bodily beauty.
Turkish Hammam History
Hammam, which is identified with Turkish culture, historically dates back to the Roman Empire. The hammam, which became increasingly widespread after the Turkish tribes accepted Islam, has a history dating back to ancient times. As a result of archaeological studies, the first examples of today’s baths were found in Athens and are thought to have been built in the 5th century BC. The widespread use of modern baths although it dates back to Ancient Greece in the 5th century, it is not limited to this region. It has been revealed by the excavations that there are similar structures in India, Egypt, and the Aegean. In the baths, which are believed to give the modern state of Roman civilization, it is thought that water was started to be heated by a central fire in the 1st century BC. It is estimated that there were around 170 baths in Rome in 33 BC. In Roman times, these structures were called therma, and today this term forms the origin of the word “thermal”. The meeting of the Turks with the hamam dates back to 1584. The mother of Murat III, Nurbanu Sultan, had our world-famous architect Mimar Sinan build the Cemberlitas Bath, which is recorded as the first public bath. Cemberlitas Hamam is still in service today. The baths, which were adopted by the public in a short time, became increasingly widespread and at the end of the 16th century, approximately 5,000 baths began to serve in Istanbul alone. Most of these baths are established as private enterprises.
What are the Features of the Turkish Hammam?
Turkish baths differ from baths in other regions in several ways. Internal partitions play the biggest role in this separation. Turkish baths generally consist of three parts are listed below:
- Dressing: Dressing areas are the places where people who visit the bath prepare to take off their clothes. Today it is prepared in the form of cabins or rooms.
- Washing: The washing section forms the center of the bath. In this section, different components such as basin, halvet, and navel stone are used. Kurna is the name of the section where the water flowing from the hot and cold water taps accumulates and everyone is washed one by one. The private room, on the other hand, is the part that is in the form of a closed room in the bath and allows the visitors to bathe alone. The navel stone is the marble structure in the center of the bath and the scrubbing service is usually given on this stone.
- Warming: The heating section in the baths is called the furnace. It is located under the bath and the fire is constantly burning. This fire is used to heat both the bath and the water.
What are the Benefits of Turkish Hammam?
Hammam is a hydro-therapy treatment with hot steam, which has a miraculous effect on everyone’s mental and physical condition. The benefits of the bath, which is of special interest and developed in our country, as in many civilizations, are as follows:
- Relaxing effects: The most general and popular benefit of the bath is the relaxing effects it provides to the mind and body. A hammam provides relief from stress and pain, thanks to the refreshing effect of hot steam on both the body and the mind. At the same time, thanks to its refreshing and relaxing properties, the hammam is one of the best therapies to combat the stress and tension we experience every day.
- Benefits to the skin: Since the benefits of the bath can be divided into mental and physical, let’s continue with an example from the body. Thanks to steam and heat, your pores will open and it will be easier for clean steam to penetrate your skin. This is the key to having wonderfully clear and youthful skin. The bath has a soothing effect on this type of cell renewal as well as other skin problems. All kinds of toxins can become trapped under your skin due to the microbes we are exposed to in the environment. Bathhouses help solve this problem by using heat to open your pores. A warm environment, which is set so that it does not scald your skin, prevents contamination, and allows you to remove dead skin.
- Benefits to blood circulation: It is also beneficial for your circulation, as more oxygen is carried to areas with damaged or weakened blood circulation thanks to the bath.
- Positive effects on blood pressure: Research shows that in a bath, some people’s bodies release hormones that change their heartbeat. One of these hormones, called aldosterone, regulates your blood pressure. When aldosterone is released while sitting in a bathhouse, it can help lower high blood pressure.
- Benefits to stress: Among the benefits of the bath, perhaps the most appealing thing to us is that it relieves stress. It is a wonderful therapy to throw a scrub and purify the body from dirt and rust, and our mind, which relaxes when we leave the bath, makes us feel very good. That’s why people who come out of the bath often say that they “light like a bird”. So how does it do this? Being in the hammam can significantly reduce your body’s production of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates the level of stress you feel. When your cortisol level drops, you feel more relaxed. Spending a few minutes in a relaxed state not only improves your health but also helps heal your mind.
- Benefits for breathing and congestion: The benefit of this is hidden in steam. Consider that if the steam you stand in while taking a bath at home improves you significantly, how much would a hammam be beneficial. Among the benefits of baths, nasal congestion and colds are the fastest solutions we can find. Baths create an environment that encourages deep and sound breathing. An old study on a group of children; found that children with respiratory tract infections recovered faster after Kizilcahamam Hamam and steam therapy than children who did not receive this therapy.
- Relaxing benefits for stiff joints: One of the notable points among the benefits of a bath is that it provides a tremendous benefit to our joints. The most obvious example of this can be given by the warm-up movements that the athletes apply before training or competition. Warming up before training is critical to preventing injuries. Starting from here; we can say that as long as the joints and muscles are not warmed up enough, they will hurt us. Sometimes we experience back, neck, and leg pain that does not go away for days. Sometimes a bath we do to prevent this is not enough, but the hamam is always ready for this task.
- Effects on the immune system: We can get a strong immune system that we need to prevent getting the flu and getting sick through the baths. As a hydrotherapy application, baths are known to increase immunity. Keeping your body under warm water and hot steam stimulates infection-fighting cells.
- Benefits for losing weight: One of the practices of those who want to lose weight is plenty of sports and exercise. In this way, the body that sweats allows us to lose weight by burning calories. If one of the tricks of the job is to sweat, then the baths where steam and heat are intertwined can also help you lose weight. Although how long you stay in the bath differs from person to person due to factors such as your body characteristics, there is also the fact that you burn calories among the benefits of the bath.
How does a Turkish Hammam Work?
According to the water used, Anatolian Turkish baths can be divided into two natural hot water and artificial heating systems. Buildings built on a natural hot water source and generally used for health purposes are called hot springs. Anatolian Turkish baths have a very important place in Turkish social life as they are the scene of many social events related to entertainment, birth, and marriage as well as cleaning. Today, it is possible to see hot and cold water pools, aromatic foam, mud, seaweed, clay, honey, and vegetable oil massages and body treatments in the baths, which are mostly used for cleaning, health, and beauty purposes. Traditional practices of Turkish Bath Culture can be evaluated in three classes in terms of health and application efficiency. It is recommended to do these three stages in terms of body care, body health, and beauty.
The working principles of Turkish baths are listed below:
- Cleansing and Purification
- Hammam Massages
- Turkish bath Body Treatments
All jewellery (gold, jewellery) and glasses must be removed before entering the bath. The metal heats up in the hammam and the heated metal affects the capillaries and can also cause redness and irritation of the skin.
Contact lenses should be removed before entering the bath, as they may cause eye irritation.
Since it is inconvenient for health to enter the bath with a full stomach, it is necessary to stop eating and drinking before the bath. The food eaten before the bath creates tension in the circulatory system. If a good meal has been eaten, as before exercise, wait an hour or two before taking a bath. In addition, it is not right to take a bath or a bath on an empty stomach. Bathing uses your energy like an exercise, it causes loss of fluids and minerals, and some people may experience nausea or fainting when they are exhausted. Therefore, taking into account the symptoms of your body, take care to make a low-temperature and short-term bath. Also, avoid going to the hammam if you feel physically exhausted.
It can be dangerous to enter in the presence of low or high blood pressure.
It is recommended not to enter in the presence of serious heart diseases and breathing difficulties.
What Should You Wear in Turkish Hammam?
While going to the hammam, casual clothes are preferred, and it is necessary to wear comfortable and sporty clothes whenever possible. In the dressing areas in the bath, clothes and underwear are removed and placed in your bag. If you wish, it is possible to enter the bath with panties, but it is recommended to use an old panty because they will constantly come into contact with water and use soap. Before leaving the dressing room, the body is covered with a loincloth. Today, many Turkish baths offer products such as loincloths and towels to their visitors. However, if you wish, you can also take your loincloth with you. Shoes and socks are also removed in the dressing room, and clogs that will not slip on the wet marble floor are worn. The clogs are offered to the visitors by the hamam, but if you wish, you can take your slippers with you. It is very important to remember that wet floors can be slippery and to walk carefully.
What is the Difference Between Hammam and Turkish Bath?
Turkish baths are very popular structures that appeal to a large number of users. However, as we mentioned before, there are many different types of baths belonging to other cultures. There is a bath culture both in many ancient civilizations and in different societies today. Examples of these are places such as spas and saunas, as well as structures such as “onsen”, “banya” and “jimjilbang”. Although these structures show similarities to Turkish baths in various aspects, Turkish baths have differences from other types of baths. The differences between Turkish baths from other types of baths cause users to make their choices according to their preferences. If we need to talk about some of these differences, we can list them as follows:
- One of the first striking features of Turkish baths is that the baths used by women and men are kept separate. Due to cultural reasons, different baths are used according to gender in Turkish baths. There is no such distinction between the “thermae” structures used in Rome, which are the source of onsen, sauna, and Turkish baths.
- Turkish bath and massage are two inseparable subjects. The high humidity and temperature ratios in Turkish baths provide softening of the skin and easy removal of dirt and dead skin. After staying in the Turkish bath for a certain period, extra cleaning and relaxation are provided with scrub and massage applications. Traditionally, such a practice is not done in some other types of baths.
- The structures most compared to Turkish baths are spas and saunas. The main difference between spa centers from Turkish baths is that these structures are built-in thermal areas. There is no such requirement for the construction of Turkish baths. In addition, the applications made in spas have a wider scope compared to Turkish baths. Sauna, on the other hand, draws attention as a simpler structure. In addition, the temperature level in a sauna is much higher than in a Turkish bath, and the humidity is lower. Today, many modern Turkish baths have sauna areas.
- An important feature of Turkish baths is their unique structures and architecture. These structures, which have a very old history, started to become widespread in our culture, especially in the Ottoman period. Depending on this situation, the architecture in Turkish baths was greatly influenced by Ottoman architecture. The Turkish bath includes many other elements as well as functionality. There are separate sections such as cold room, hot room, and changing rooms in the baths. One of the first striking features of the exterior of Turkish baths is the widely used dome shape. Apart from that, the external architecture of Turkish baths generally has a rather plain appearance.
What are the Famous Turkish Hammams?
Turkish baths have had a vital importance for cleaning and hygiene throughout history. However, with the spread of bathrooms suitable for private use over time, this priority task of Turkish baths fell into the background. Therefore, the use of the Turkish bath, which was once more common, has decreased over time. Some of the less popular old Turkish baths have been demolished or converted into museum-like structures. However, many historical Turkish baths have survived to the present day. Some of these baths have been restored and made ready for use again. If we need to talk briefly about important historical Turkish baths, we can list some of them as follows:
1. Cemberlitas Bath
Cemberlitas is one of the historical baths that still functions as a bath. This bath was designed by Mimar Sinan and was built in 1584. Cemberlitas Hamam is one of our famous hammams, located next to Cemberlitas, very close to the Grand Bazaar. The bath, which was built by Selim’s wife Nur Banu Sultan, consists of two separate sections for men and women. Cemberlitas was also known as Valide Sultan and Rose Bath for a while. Evliya Celebi, who traveled the Ottoman lands and collected what he saw in his work called Seyahatnâme, also refers to the building as Murat III’s Bath. It is possible to come across Ottoman inscriptions on some navel stones in the bath. Although the Cemberlitas Bath was damaged over time, it was reused as a result of restoration work.
2. Hagia Sophia Hurrem Sultan Hammam
The construction this bath, which was built by Hurrem Sultan, the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent, was completed in 1557. Mimar Sinan, the chief architect of the period, broke new ground in Turkish bath architecture by constructing the men’s and women’s sections on the same axis for the first time. The bath, which was built by Hurrem Sultan as a charity, was used as a warehouse for many years. The bath, which was repaired between 1957 and 1958, was reopened in 2011 with its 5 centuries-old functions, that is, as a bath.
3. Historical Galatasaray Hamam
The hammam is located within the Galatasaray Complex and was built by Sultan II. It was built by Beyazıt in 1481 together with the complex. Galatasaray Hammam, one of the most magnificent and famous baths in Istanbul, was built by Sultan II. It was made by Bayezid at the request of Gul Baba, one of the important figures of those times. Galatasaray Hamam, which appeals to centuries, has served many pashas, judges, grand viziers, and sultans. The Turkish bath is still one of the most preferred historical baths today.
4. The Suleymaniye Hamam
Forms part of the mosque. The bath, which has been standing in Beyazit since 1557, consists of domes and chimneys lined up one after the other. At that time, the Suleymaniye Mosque and its social complex were built together with the bath. In addition to the sections that women and men can use every day, the special box section where Suleiman the Magnificent once bathed is the part of the bath that is used. Today, the bath still performs its functions. There is only one section for men and women and you must make a reservation before you go.
5. The Historical Vezneciler
Bath was built by the grand vizier Siyavus Pasha in 1582 to generate income for the Suleymaniye madrasah. According to other information, it was attached as a mansion bath and later opened to the public. In 1965, the dressing places were renovated as reinforced concrete. The historical Vezneciler Bath takes its name from the district where it is located. It is easy to reach as it is close to the Grand Bazaar, Beyazit Mosque, Sehzadebasi Mosque, and Suleymaniye Mosque.
Should You Go to The Turkish Hammam in Turkey Trips?
Today, in addition to the intense competition and search for innovation in the tourism sector, the change in consumer behavior, and conscious and selective approach increases the interest in different products and services. Therefore, Turkish Baths are an attractive touristic product both culturally and architecturally. Tourists, who meet the Turkish Bath, which has an important place in Turkish culture, cannot give up on the Turkish Bath. The hammam experience, which starts with a sauna and continues with scrub and foam treatments, ends with a massage. Tourists coming from many countries, especially British tourists, come to the Turkish bath for the first time and come once again. You should come to Turkey to experience Turkish hospitality and the pleasure of the Turkish bath and the spots in Turkey that should be seen.