18 Jun HAMMAM ACCESSORIES: MUST-HAVES FOR THE BEST EXPERIENCE
Hammam accessories used in the Turkish bath reflect the richness of the traditional culture and are symbols passed down through generations. However, this bathing ritual that has been known for centuries attracts also more and more attention from foreign tourists. People all around the world can now appreciate amazing hammam products and accessories for bathing. If you are ready for a unique experience of a traditional Turkish bath, have a closer look at wonderful products and accessories that you should try at least once in your lifetime. You won’t regret it, and you can be sure to come back for more!
Accessories of the hammam itself
A wide range of bathing accessories can still be found in Turkish baths, so you don’t need to bring them with you. Some of them were used for centuries and are no longer in place. However, you may find even the very traditional ones in historical hammams, many of which date back to the 16th century.
In hammam buildings, the walls are lined with separate sinks, called “kurna” in Turkish. What beautiful surrounding! You will sit next to cold and hot water taps and fill up your hammam bowl with warm water at your desired temperature. The water run over the highest level of kurna and unlike regular basins, marble kurna doesn’t have any drainer at the bottom.
Hamam bowl and İbrik
You can take a bath by reaching the water from kurna with the help of “hamam tası” (hammam bowl) and then pouring warm water over your body. These bowls were traditionally made of silver, copper, and brass, hand hammered, with relief or inlay technique, and consisted of fluted, vegetal, animal, or geometric motifs.
“İbrik”, on the other hand, is a beautiful liquid container with a spout used for storing and pouring water. In historic hammams, it was used for ablution.
Another accessory is the “buhurdan”, a censer that was generally made of silver, copper, or tombac. It was both an aesthetic and functional vessel in which plants and oils were burned. The smoke coming out of the hole in the lid made a Turkish bath smell incredibly, and it was especially used in women’s baths, generally on special occasions.
Nowadays essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, tea tree, or eucalyptus oil are diffused in the hammam for health and relaxing benefits. They affect respiration thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and decongesting qualities. Essential oils will make your Turkish bath experience unforgettable!
“Gülabdan” can be made from silver, copper, glass, or porcelain. It was an object used in a traditional hammam to offer rose water to the guests after their bathing ritual, and usually on special occasions. Rose water is one of the most popular beauty products in Turkish culture. It’s generally used for curing acne, dry skin, and various skin problems, but is also refreshing and has an incredible smell.
Traditional accessories that are used in hammams
Some of the hammam accessories can now only be seen in museums. However, there are several traditional items that are still used in Turkish baths in modern times. Some you will be given in a hammam, and some you may bring or even buy in a shop after your exquisite Turkish bath experience.
“Kese” is a scrubbing accessory for the body, traditionally used in Turkish baths for the soft skin cleansing ritual. Hammam kese is made of natural materials such as goat hair, silk, linen, and wool and is made the traditional way. It may last a couple of years or longer, depending on the material.
Kese improves blood circulation, scrubs off your dead skin cells, and helps the skin to breathe by opening pores. It’s great for treating cellulite and getting toxins out of your skin as well. A massage made with kese in lengthy, circular moves, will make you feel like a newborn!
After your body was scrubbed with the help of kese, it’s time for a lighter treatment that will make you feel heavenly! This part is called a hammam foam bag massage. During this treatment, bubbles are created by repeatedly dipping the bag in the lather of olive oil soap in a hammam bowl by the “tellak”, a masseur in a Turkish bath. The bag is traditionally made of organic cotton and is one of the main hammam bath products.
Olive oil soap
Olive oil soap has been used since ancient times. It’s not only a great softener and moisturizer for your skin, but also protects it from dryness and preserves the sebum. It can stimulate the growth of new cells, making your skin look younger and brighter. Olive oil soap may even relieve the symptoms of eczema and other dermatologic problems with your skin. Natural olive oil-based soap is always the most recommended one since it has antioxidant benefits and contains vitamin E.
Hammam shoes, traditional Turkish sandals, were originally called “takunya”. They were handmade, and created from walnuts and mother of pearl. These clogs were traditionally used in hammams to protect feet from dirty water and prevent people from slipping on the soapy floor surface.
With time these hammam sandals were replaced by plastic slippers, which are lighter and quieter. However, nowadays they are becoming more and more popular, not only among regular Turkish bath visitors but also tourists that are willing to indulge in a unique hammam experience.
Peştemal is a very important part of tradition carried from the Ottoman Empire to the modern days. It’s a special thin Turkish hammam towel or a hammam robe that became a very popular souvenir from Turkey. The name originated from Persian. Peştemal can have many different designs, and colors, no pattern, or be patterned. The most popular one has a vertical striped design and is made from natural fabrics, such as linen, cotton, or bamboo.
If you find the topic of hammam accessories interesting and would love to find out more about their history and origin, you may go to the Turkish Hammam Culture Museum, along with coming to the hammam and experiencing it firsthand. This outstanding museum is situated within the “Istanbul Historical Places” included in the World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO in 1985.
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GoTürkiye: Official Travel Guide of Türkiye, Traditional Turkish Hammams.
Vaughn, A.R., Clark, A.K., Sivamani, R.K. et al. Natural Oils for Skin-Barrier Repair: Ancient Compounds Now Backed by Modern Science. Am J Clin Dermatol 19, 103–117 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40257-017-0301-1
Ovacık Dörtbaş M. The bathing clogs. Turkish Cultural Foundation
Turkish Museums, İstanbul II.Bayezid Turkish Hamam Culture Museum