History of Turkish Bath
The History of Turkish Bath dates back to the Roman times and the importance of the concept in Ottoman and Turkish cultures is great.The Roman concept of baths evolved over time and it became a Turkish tradation eventually.Like so much else in Turkish culture,the hamam dates back to the Ottoman Empire.The steam bath in Ottoman times had three basic functions:a place for social gathering;ritual cleansing connected to the Muslim faith, which required spiritual and physical cleanliness;and an architectural witness to the sultans greatness,power and wealth.
The most impressive examples of hamam architecture are found in Istanbul,capital of the Ottoman Empire and former capital of the Byzantine Empire.The Byzantines considered themselves the direct cultural and political successors to the Roman Empire, where public baths were a staple feature of the community.The Ottomans adopted and continued this practice when they conquered the Byzantines in 1450.No expenses were spared in lavish construction and decoration of the hamams. Valuable materials were used not only in the rulers private hamam,but also in the public baths.Most of these baths are still functional and in use today.
Originally,the use of the hamam was restricted to men,but that has since changed.In Ottoman times,each harem would have its own hamam,for womens use only.In modern times,men and women are now both allowed in the same hamam,although they bathe in separate rooms.Smaller hamams have ladies days.
Particularly during the Ottoman Empire,hamams were a place for socializing.The bath was open from sunrise to sunset and frequented not only for washing but also for use of the barber, exchange of gossip and news, and even business meetings.In the ladies section,women could investigate the physical and social qualities of prospective daughters-in-law,enjoy music and entertainment,and indulge in sweets.
A hamam consists of three separate rooms:the warm room,the hot room and the cooling-off room.Visitors to hamams are received by a bath attendant who gives them a cotton wrap, special wooden clogs,which prevented slipping on the wet floor,and a rough mitt for massaging.Todays practices are much the same as in days of year.
After divesting themselves of their clothes and putting on the wrap and clogs, the bathers enter the warm room. It is heated by a constant flow of hot, dry air, instigating relaxation and perspiration. After warming up, they proceed to an even hotter room before entering the steam and massage area. Bathers lie down on marble slabs and, with the help of a masseuse, wash down vigorously,scrubbing with the mitt and abundant soap while at the same time receiving a reviving massage.Hot or cold water,according to the bathers taste is used to wash away the suds and residue.After being cleaned and massaged,the bather retires to the cooling room. Here he or she relaxes from the exertions of the massage and allows the stress-relieving benefits of the treatment to take full effect.The most socializing takes place in this room as the bathers can relax and chat together.