The oriental charm of the Hamam, the Turkish Bath
The Turkish bath, similar to the Roman baths, is still present in many cities in Turkey. The Hamam concept is not Turkish, but it has certainly been very successful in Turkey. The Romans are the true creators of the concept of public bathroom, with the creation of the baths. But we, unlike the Romans, use running water.
The Turks are a very modest people, so in the Hamam you never completely undress. In fact, men have a cloth around their waist while women wear it to the height of the breast.
The real Turkish bath has never been mixed. Turkish men and women, in a country of great modesty, could never share such an intimate moment. There are usually two distinct areas, one for each gender, but not all Hamams have the necessary space for this organisation, so strict schedules are set to allow men and women to enter separately.
Time in the Turkish bath
The time spent in the Hamam is sanctioned by several stages. The first concerns the room where you undress. This room is often also used for rest, where you can sip tea and eat some baklava.
The next room, in addition to the dome that allows natural light to penetrate, has many small fountains where you can wash standing up, and then sit on the central platform, where there are marble slabs.
Often the air in the Hamam can become heavy, suffocating and humid, but it is a suffering that must be accepted if you want to have renewed skin.
When the masseur arrives, hold on tight because he will give you an energetic massage! There will be no point in complaining, as he will not consider it. He will be impassive. After the vigorous massage, he will also have to rub your back. With a lif (horsehair glove), without you being able to argue, because this too will be a little torture. Obviously in the female part, the same task is entrusted to a woman. It is impossible for a man to do it to a woman. In Turkish culture, modesty is unimaginable for European minds.
To date, the Turks use Hamams less than before. Although the ancient ones of the city still exist, many Turks opt for a good and modern spa. Some of the most beautiful and famous Hamams in Istanbul are the Hamam of Ҫağaloğlu, Ҫemberlitaş, of Süleymaniye, of Aya Sofya Hürrem Sultan or of Kılıç Ali Paşa, but there are obviously many others.
Years ago, the Turkish bath was an obligatory stop on the path of marriage. In fact, it was an opportunity for the mother-in-law (along with all the women of the two families) to observe the future daughter-in-law from every angle before the wedding.
In the collective imagination, the Turkish bath is still very much alive as we connect it to luxury and the Sultans. Just naming it makes many of us dream, since it is an unshakable symbol of the East. It is a place that has always had a mysterious and intriguing aura, an almost indispensable stop for the visitor who discovers Turkey for the first time.