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There are three distinguished rooms when you hear the word hammam chamber. Sorry, but the Chamber of Secrets isn’t one of them. Each hammam chamber has a special purpose, and we are going to go through each one so you will know what to expect when visiting a Turkish hammam.

Exploring Different Rooms in a Hammam

As we said, a typical historic hammam has three main rooms. They all have different functions and designs.

  • Entrance hall or “Camekan”
  • Hot room or “Sicaklik”
  • Cooling room or “Sogukluk”

With modern Turkish baths, there could be additional rooms such as saunas, jacuzzies, or even massage rooms. Now let’s see what the purpose of each room is and how you would move between them.

Camekan (Entrance Hall)

The word camekan consists of two words that actually come from Farsi; the first is “came” meaning clothes, and the second is “kan” meaning to take off. So basically, meaning where you can take your clothes off. This part of the hammam consists of the entrance hall, lockers, and changing cabins. In the entrance hall, you will be greeted by the hammam staff, and you can turn in your phone for safekeeping since it is not allowed to take your phone inside the facility, especially other hammam chambers.

After this, you are ready to take off your clothes and wrap yourself in a peshtemal or you can call it a Turkish bath towel. Then you can put your belongings in your locker, and you are ready to embark on your Turkish bath experience.

Sicaklik (Hot Room)

In English, “sicak” means hot, and this hammam chamber is called the hot room because the temperature is usually kept between 40 to 50 degrees Celsius, and of course, there is hot steam as well. The purpose of this hammam chamber is to prepare your body for cleaning while the heat relaxes your body and muscles.

Your bath attendant will bring you to the hot room, where everything is usually made of marble. There is a central hot marble stone that is elevated, and you can lie on it. There are basins around this hammam chamber with taps to get warm water to rinse yourself or to cool down a bit. Every hammam sink is also made out of marble too.

While you are laying on the central hot marble stone, your respective attendant will start scrubbing your entire body to get rid of the dead skin. Another part of the hammam treatment is the bubble bath or the foam massage. After exfoliating, your bath attendant rinses you and starts burying you under mountains of bubbles they make using the exfoliating glove.

Sauna

In some public baths, there might be a designated room for steam baths or, as you know them, saunas. In a Turkish bath, the sauna would also be made out of marble as well because, traditionally, saunas are made out of wood. And you would get the steam from pouring water on the hot stones in the middle of the room.

Sogukluk (Cooling Room)

What is the opposite of hot? Cold! That is what “soguk” means in English. After an intense scrub down and massage it is time to unwind even more. The cooling room is normally the last stop in the Turkish bath experience. This hammam chamber is also made out of marble. There are usually a few showers or even a cold pool for you to plunge in. The cold water will close your pores and help your body and muscles to readjust.

When you are all refreshed, the hammam staff will bring you some snacks and Turkish tea to enjoy.

Hammam Architecture and Design

Another aspect of a Turkish bath that makes it unique all around the world is its architecture and design.

Even though there are other places, such as a Moroccan hammam, that have similarities, the architecture is still one of a kind when it comes to a Turkish bath.

The initial inspiration for a Turkish bath came from the Roman public baths. Later on, in the 14th century, Islamic influence showed up in the design too.

Turkish Bath Marble

Marble is the main material used in the construction of a Turkish hammam. There are many good reasons why marble is so favorable for making and designing the inside of a hammam.

  • Durability
  • Heat retention
  • Aesthetics
  • Hygiene

Now let’s see how each of these aspects contributes to marble being such a favorable material when it comes to constructing a Turkish hammam chamber.

Durability

Compared with other materials that can be used in making a hammam, marble is very durable. This makes marble a great choice for a hammam.

The wearing down is very slow, which gives more time to use it without needing to replace or even mend it. Marble’s durability is also about the heat. The constant temperature change does not affect the stone that much. You do not see any sign of breaking because of the temperature change, which makes it the best option for a hammam.

Heat Retention

Speaking of temperature, marble is also great at absorbing heat and keeping it. With this feature, there is no need to spend too much power and energy to maintain the heat inside the hammam. With minimum energy to heat up the hammam environment, you can maintain the entire hammam at a warm temperature making it ideal for the guests.

Aesthetics

Not only marble is durable and retains heat very well, but it is also one of the most beautiful materials used in construction and design. Marble, with its color, veiny design, and smooth surface, adds a level of luxury to the inside of the hammam.

Hygiene

Hygiene goes hand in hand with both bath culture and hammam. And what better option than marble? Due to the smooth surface of marble, water can not be absorbed by it. This prevents bacteria and mold to form, also making it easy to clean. For a place such as a hammam, this feature of marble makes it the best construction material.

Hammam Seating and Layout

Although the main reason to go to the hammam is to get clean, the close second reason is to socialize. The main hammam chamber, which is the hot room, is usually the biggest chamber in the hammam, and there are marble benches or platforms all around the hot room for people to sit on and socialize. The socializing can continue to the cooling room too. Some hammams might have lounges dedicated to relaxing and socializing.

The Hammam Environment

To create the best environment to better serve you and other guests to achieve peace and tranquility, the hammam staff would use incense sticks as a part of aromatherapy too. There would not be any harsh lighting accompanied by soft music to mentally prepare you for a relaxing time. In historic hammams, you might even see that in the main hammam chamber, there are skylights that let natural light in. That is why hammam chambers are domed with high ceilings.

Calming Colors and Decor

The color schemes used in hammams can vary a bit. Traditional and historic places usually go with the natural colors of marble, such as beige or even white. Both these colors are not only calming but also symbols of purity as well. Other than earthy tones that symbolize modesty, some blue, turquoise, and green to resemble water and nature could also be in the designs of a hammam. More modern hammams might incorporate some gold and silver to create a feeling of luxury for their customers.

Belly Stone Hammam

If you have read the part about hammam chambers, especially sicaklik or the hot room, you would know what we are talking about. Yes, the elevated platform in the middle of the hot room has a big slab of marble on it, and it is heated. This central hot marble stone, also called a navel stone, is a key element in the hot room. You can just lay on it and relax. But also is where you would get your whole body scrubbed.

The heating underneath the navel stone makes it easier to lay on the stone, especially because you would be semi-naked.

Hammam Rituals and Traditions

Same as every place you go to that comes with rules to follow Turkish hammam has its own sets of rituals and hammam traditions. By following these traditions, you will have an authentic Turkish bath experience.

  • Undressing and wrapping yourself up in a peshtemal or a traditional Turkish bath towel
  • Entering the hot room and lying on the central hot marble stone so your body adjusts to the heat
  • A friendly hammam attendant starts scrubbing your entire body with an exfoliating glove (kese)
  • After rinsing you with hot water, your hammam attendant covers you with bubbles and washes your body.
  • You can move to the cooling room to continue unwinding and have a plunge in the cold pool.
  • You can enjoy drinking some Turkish tea and snacks.

All of these happen while you are with other guests in the Turkish bath, and you can socialize with them.

References:

GoTürkiye: Official Travel Guide of Türkiye, Traditional Turkish Hammams

Bahtiyar Karatosun M, Baz T. N. Turkish Baths as Cultural Heritage in the Context of Tangible and Intangible. Architecture Research 2017, 7(3): 84-91 DOI: 10.5923/j.arch.20170703.03.