Hammam: What Is a Turkish Bath & What to Know About It
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Hammam: What Is a Turkish Bath & What to Know About It

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If you are hearing the word hammam for the first time then this is the right article for you. Hammam, also known as a Turkish bath, is concluded of different bathing rituals that take place in a public bath. Each part of this ritual has a specific benefit for your body.

Let’s start with the first question and see what the Turkish hammam is!

What Is a Hammam?

Hamam is a special place that, throughout the centuries, people have used not only for cleaning their entire bodies but also to socialize and build connections. A Turkish bath has different parts, and each is intended for a specific reason. These parts can be listed as the following hammam chambers:

  • Entrance hall
  • Hot room
  • Cooling room

Hammam History

Turkish baths & hammams as we know them today have been influenced by many cultures throughout history, such as Greek, Roman, and even Byzantine. Later came the Islamic influence that today you see as the gender-separated baths. The rise of the Turkish hammam came in the Ottoman Empire that started in the 14th century. These civilizations and their cultures have shaped the hammam’s rich history and contributed to its current form.

Hammam Comparisons

All around the world, different cultures have developed their own bathing rituals over the centuries and the place to practice them. From Morocco to Japan, there are unique bath cultures. There are many similarities between each of these practices but is the differences that make them unique.

Moroccan Hammam

The most similar of all to a traditional Turkish bath is the Moroccan hammam. But when it comes to the difference between a Turkish bath and a Moroccan bath, we see that there are notable distinctions.

Unlike a Turkish bath, you enter a steam room, and then you will get a scrub down with a special black soap that is made out of olive oil and olive paste. There is usually whole body massage with argan oil or olive oil, which will leave you with softer skin. Moroccan hammam comes with its own traditions and culture as well. Moroccan women sometimes sing and dance in the hammam, which can be a totally different experience.

Now moving on to the Far East.

Korean Jimjilbang

With its own sets of rules and traditions, a Korean jimjibang is way different than what you think. There are gender-separated parts in the whole bathhouse but also communal space that both men and women can enjoy.

First, you undress and enter a place with bathtubs that contain different temperatures of water so you can choose which one to use. You can also use a sauna. After your skin is soft enough, it is time for the scrubbing. You would lie fully nude on a massage table and get your treatment. When you are clean, you will receive clean clothes from the staff and enter a communal space where you can continue unwinding and get snacks.

Since Korean jimjibangs are open 24/7, you can stay as long as you want. There are sleeping rooms where people can sleep as well.

Japanese Onsen

What makes Japanese onsen one of a kind is the fact that onsen means “hot spring” in English. Onsens are built around hot springs, and part of the practice is to relax in the hot spring. Before entering the hot spring, you will have to undress. There are showers there so you can wash yourself to not contaminate the hot spring. You will need to rinse yourself whenever you want to enter another bath as well.

Hammam Benefits

Hammam is not just about getting your body cleaned. The combination of getting your entire naked body cleaned and having time to unwind and connect with other people while getting pampered has many benefits. Here are some of the hammam benefits:

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Body detoxification
  • Better blood flow
  • Improve immune system
  • Improve skin texture
  • Decrease stress

When you first enter the hot room in the hammam, the heat and steam help relax your body and muscles. Being in the hot room opens up your pores and helps your body sweat and get rid of toxins. The heat also promotes better blood flow because your blood vessels expand, which in turn will help your immune system.

Moving on from the hot room, you enter the main chamber of the hamam for your complete body scrub. Not only the scrubbing helps with blood flow, but it also removes dead skin, and you will end up with softer skin.

Lastly, after the hammam ritual, which includes whole-body exfoliating and a bubble massage, it is hard not to feel relaxed while sipping Turkish tea and having snacks.

What to Expect & What to Know Beforehand

To have a better hammam experience, it is good to know what you will be dealing with. To prepare for your hammam experience, you can start by taking a light shower so your body is clean and ready. Shaving and grooming are optional but do check with the establishment that you are going to.

You do not usually need to take shampoo, towels, slippers, and soap with you because most establishments provide you with them. But just in case, you can take them with you.

You are going to a public bath, so it is good to know it involves some nudity, but it is also important to remember to be modest and respectful. There is another hammam etiquette to consider as well, such as interaction with attendants and guests.

Your Step-by-step Hammam Journey

Going to a public hammam might not seem too appealing at first, but we can assure you it is better than you think. With modern hammams offering a wide variety of services such as deep tissue massage and aromatherapy, there is so much to enjoy from this traditional spa experience.

In this part of the article, we are going to walk you through each step of a Turkish hammam experience to paint you a better picture.

First step:

You enter the check-in area, where you will turn in your phone for safekeeping.

Second step:

You will go to the lockers and changing area. You will undress and wear single-use underwear or just wrap your Turkish bath towel around you.

Third step

The beginning of your Turkish bath experience.

It starts with the hot room where the hot steam and heat help your body relax and your skin pores open to start sweating and get rid of toxins in your body. After spending 15 to 20 minutes in this room, you move on to the main chamber of the Turkish hammam, which is domed and has an elevated slab of marble that is heated. As you lay on the heated marble, the respective attendant starts scrubbing your body with an exfoliating glove.

When your attendant is done scrubbing all the dead skin from your body, they will rinse you with some hot water. Now it is time for a bubble bath. Not the bubble bath, you think. Your bath attendant covers you with mountains of bubbles and cleans your body. At last, with a splash of cold water to close your skin pores, you can move on or stay in the main chamber if you want. This traditional hammam treatment can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

Depending on what additional services you ask for, it can take longer, maybe up to 2 hours. The last part would be going to the cool-down room to regroup and continue relaxing while having some snacks, fresh fruits, and Turkish tea.

How Much Does a Hammam Cost

Well sure, after reading all about hammam, you want to know if it is worth it. We say it is! Money-wise and otherwise. With the variety of services and Turkish hamams to choose from, you can find something that tickles your fancy without breaking the bank. Prices vary based on the hamam you go to and the kind of service you are getting. Your Turkish Hamam experience can cost you anywhere from $30 to $100. With that said, here we have provided you with some specifics about the services and packages as part of a traditional Turkish bath.

Package/Service Duration Price
Traditional Turkish baths 25-60 minutes €65 – €125
Ottoman Hammam Package 60 minutes €125
Anti-stress massage 50 minutes €80

To find which hammam packages or spa massages suit you, you can visit here and learn more about Çatma Mescit Hammam services.

Hammam in Istanbul

One of the major cities that you have to visit in Turkey is Istanbul, and what better way to experience Turkish culture than going to a Turkish bathhouse? You can find historic hammams all around Istanbul if you are interested in having an authentic Turkish hammam experience. Don’t worry, Istanbul has something for everyone, and Turkish baths & Hammams are no exception either. With more tourists visiting Istanbul every year, it is no wonder why there are so many hammams & Turkish baths options. Make sure to give Turkish Bath & Hammam a chance to blow your mind in the best way possible.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hammam

We have gathered the most common questions asked about Turkish baths and other components of a traditional Turkish bath that could be helpful to you in having a great experience when visiting a Turkish bathhouse. Take your time to go through these questions; the answers could be really helpful.

How Often Should I Visit a Hammam?

There are no limits to how many times you can visit a hammam. Also, it is not necessary to go to a hammam either. But here is what we can tell you since going to a Turkish Hammam includes being scrubbed, it might be a good idea to avoid overdoing it because it can hurt your skin in the long run. Too much exfoliation can make your skin sensitive and more prone to getting dry. So if you are planning a regular visit to a Turkish hammam spa, make it once a week.

Do I Need to Make a Reservation to Visit a Hammam?

Usually yes. This depends on the type of establishment you are visiting. Tourist hammams can get quite busy, so booking a time slot for yourself sounds like a great idea. But with more local hammams, a walk-in would be generally fine, and you would not need to wait for a long time.

How Long Does a Typical Hammam Experience Last?

Normally a typical hammam experience lasts anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes. You can stay longer if you like, and if you ask for additional services, it will take longer.

Are There Any Age Restrictions for Visiting a Hammam?

Yes! Children under the age of 12 are not allowed inside a hammam since it could be dangerous to their well-being. Also, relaxation and children do not really mix.

What Is The Difference between a Public and a Private Hammam?

Gender separation. One of the most important aspects of a Turkish hammam is that it is separated based on gender. This stands true in public baths all around Turkey. But private hammams are new additions to the Turkish Bath & Hammam culture providing the traditional hammam experience for couples, especially Western tourists.

How Do I Know If a Hammam Is Authentic and Traditional?

All establishments around Turkey, especially Istanbul, try their best to provide you with the most authentic hammam experience ever. But if you want to be able to tell if a hammam is authentic, here are the indicators. There is a public bathing area with an elevated slab of marble in the middle, and around it, you will see basins made out of marble which people can use to rinse themselves. Other than the scrubbing and foam bath, additional massages are newer items added to the authentic treatment.

Can I Bring My Children to a Hammam?

No, you can’t. No children under the age of 12 are allowed in hammams. This is due to the health and safety of the children. Also, a hammam is a place of peace, and children are not really the most peaceful beings; therefore, it is best not to bring them in a hammam.

Are There Any Time Restrictions for Visiting a Hammam?

No, but it depends. Generally speaking, there is no time limitation when it comes to how long you can stay in the hammam. But if you are visiting a fairly busy establishment, there could be time restrictions for example, you are only allowed to stay an hour extra after you are done with your hammam experience.

References:

http://www.victorianturkishbath.org/

http://www.medicaljournalshouse.com/index.php/ADR-CommunityHealth/article/view/324/264