Istanbul, Turkish Baths (Hamam)

The fame of the Turkish bath, like that of Turkish Delight, has gone round the world. It is a curious fact that the so-called Turkish bath is derived from the Romans and modern Turkish hamams or bath buildings are hased upon the model of the old Roman baths. While Europe was the heir to the civilization of Rome, yet .the idea of the bath and of personal cleanliness gradually fell into dissuetude in Europe from various causes, down to the eighteenth century, so that the need for public baths was not felt. The Turks, however, have from the most ancient times attached the greatest importance to washing, either as a matter of daily life or as a ceremonial ablution before prayer. In Turkey washing developed into a pleasure, a social habit and even a ceremonial.  In fact, eventually it was overdone.

The bath, the in Turkey has become a valued and attractive feature in social life. The bath became customary for brides before the wedding, for mothers for purification after childbirth and on other occasions, when their relatives, their friends and even mere neighbours would come and pass the whole day in the hamam. However the the times may change, this pleasurable custom still retains its respect.

The architecture of the bath and the craft of the hamamc? or attendant continue with very little change. The building consists of two main parts, the furnace and the washing rooms. The furnace, where the and air is heated, contains a big fireplace and a cauldron. This side of the bath, which is interesting, distributes the hot air and smoke by various routes below the baths themselves and through the walls, so that the whole place is heated.
The washing side, that is the bath proper, consists of private section, (halvet), the orta or main section, and the socalled göbek ta??, the “navel stone” , that is the central pool. The halvet is the hottest part. The orta is not so hot and has several basins. It is here that the water is collected in basins for pouring over the body with bowls. The “navel stone,, is a broad platform, slightly raised abo\ e the floor level, circular, in the middle. Here the bathers sit and rest and even lie down.

Before entering the water the bather undresses in the cubicles or on the platform termed the sedir. He wraps himself in a large towel called pe?temal. For being dried another large bath towel is used, termed the silecek. , With this and a smaller towel, the havlu, clogs are brought and he steps into the bath.

Here, if he wishes, he can wash himself or, if he desires, an attendant termed the tellak comes and washes him. He is then rubbed with a coarse glove termed the kese, or ba?, and massaged.

When the washing is over, on returning to the waiting-room he is well dried and then rests for a time. During this repose refreshment is brought to him, coffee as a rule, or tea or lemonade. After that he dresses again and the Turkish bath has come to an end.

In Istanbul almost every district has its bath. On the Beyo?lu side there is the Galatasaray Hamam? in the Suterazi Soka??, next to Galatasaray College and opposite the post office and Konak Hotel. On the Istanbul side there are several, of which may be recommended the Ca?alo?lu hamam? in the district of that name, or the Y?ld?z Hamam?.

Leave a Reply