The hammam, also known as the Turkish hamam or Turkish bath, is the Middle Eastern variant of a steam bath, which can be categorized as a wet relative of the Finnish sauna. Although the first hammams originated in Arabia, and bath culture was a central part of Roman life, Turkey popularized the tradition (and is most often associated with it) by making hammams available to people of all walks of life. Hammams are dedicated to relaxing body, soul and mind. Hammams are the places for the ultimate purification of the body, mind and spirit.
A traditional hammam consists of a hot room (the sıcaklık, or hararet), a warm, intermediate room, and the cool room (or soğukluk). The hammam ritual is simple, relaxing and pampering but it does have several steps. All steps aimed at cleansing and relaxing. The treatment lasted a set period of time, but attendees are free to lounge in the cooling areas for as long as they liked. They can have hot tea, club soda or seven-up or having some snakes is also popular in some areas of the world. The treatment detoxifies and purifies the skin after this treatment. Amazingly the word “hammam” is used in almost all Native American languages for the same meaning.
Almost all spa-goers love hammams since one can extend this Mediterranean/Eastern-European/Middle Eastern/North African multicultural bathing experience in there. Traditionally they’ve been a same-sex experience; new modern trends have broadened the experience to couples. While a hammam treatment is “full body”, experience neither man nor woman are scrubbed in any of their private areas in modern day hammams. Men and woman bathe separately in old days. But, nowadays, even the women are far from shy with each other when it comes to the public Hammams in the Middle East.
Hammam represents beautiful method of the body relaxation, and rejuvenating especially for the entire nervous system of a human body. After passing for whole the necessary procedures in hammam not only general body tone will increase but also the mood will improve. We can say, hammam is the civilized adventure of body, mind and spirit. Hammams won their wide recognition throughout the whole world due to their unique beneficial effect on the human body.
How to Indulgence yourself in Hammam Ritual:
1. Get Relaxed and Prepare for the Experience:
As you enter the dressing room, or Camegah, there are areas for changing, which are surrounded by private cubicles where you dress. Upon arrival a hammam along with a key to your cubicle, your attendant will give you a cotton wrap, or pestemal, and a pair of slippers, or terlik (or wooden clogs). And there is a common a place to have a cup of tea or a soft drink before the hammam treatment. You can get little rest there and adjust yourself to a new ambiance. This ritual is authentic to its origins and reflects the traditional bath house architectural designs from both ancient Morocco, Turkey, Roman Empire,
2. Adjust to the Warmth:
Before you start the process, the tellak (who attends you at hammam) will take you to a transition area, called iliklik(tepidarium), or intermediate room, where you would receive your towels if you didn’t get and get a custom to heat.
3. Scrubbing and Soaping:
Then you enter the hararet, or hot room caldarium, which houses the large tummy marble slab or navel Stone (göbek taşı) in the center. The center of a typical hammam is a domed room. A hammam should feature an antique or antique looking stone kurna (basin) and a mirror (ayna) from a traditional Turkish hammam. While the high humidity is a main factor, the focus of this hammam treatment is its full-body exfoliation (scrubbing), which is administered on the heated göbektasi. Clientele are arranged on marble slabs or around the fountain, alternate with high humidity and being vigorously scrubbed by a tellak. Clientele should remain on the hot stone, while keeping cool by pouring water over themselves, in preparation for the scrub. Tellak uses hot water to make the muscles relax. That simple act elicits a surprisingly soothing, almost primal, sensation of warmth, and makes a person feel the tension in body melting away. The purpose of the gradual heating of the body and subsequent sweating is to discharge toxins and open the pores of the skin.
Second step is spraying with cool water to normalize the temperature of already heated body, and to eliminate unnecessary dirt on it. Following the scrubbing, attendants use a coarse mitt to remove layers of dead skin. There is application of special soap at the end, if requested shampoo can be done. Gradually, attendants start to “scrub ritual”, preparing your heated body to gently rub with kese (glove of horsehair). You are already starting to peel and separate the dead skin cells from your body which means cleaning the pores of your skin. The cumulative effect of monthly exfoliation treatments might keep one’s skin remarkably soft. Again, an attendant will be spraying the body with water. After that an attendant will give you a gentle soap and relaxing massage, your skin will feel soft and smooth. Then, attendant use lacy cloth, like a pillow case, and blows through it to create bubbles so client covered from head to toe with white frothy bubbles. Then rinsing a massaging comes. The feeling is very pleasant, and the use of aromatic soaps might further enhance this effect and very beautiful feeling.
The temperature of the hot Turkish bath is 45 °- 80° C for walls, floors and massage beds, and the average temperature is about 40 °- 45 ° C. Humidity reaches 50-70 %.
There might be exotic ceramic tiles in hammam. The tiles remove static electricity from the air. Authentic patterns, figures and colors of tiles help to relax the mind and body. The light, diffused through glass (Fil Ayagı) in the ceiling is soft and relaxing. All creates a soothing ambiance for the clientele.
4. Rinsing and Massaging:
After soaping, you can get rinsing and you can pamper yourself with a relaxing full-body massaging (harder then Swedish massage) from expert hands. The hair wash is one of the best parts, with hair balsam, and scalp massage you can get total indulgence of hammam. Then, enjoy a calming massage that effortlessly guides you in to a state of utter tranquility. Whole treatment lasts about 45-60 minutes. After themassage you are handed towels and then taken to the cool room (soğukluk – frigidarium) to cool down and drink tea, eastern tea extracts or seven-up. The recommended temperature in there is around 22 ˚- 26˚ in this area. After your rest, you read book, watch TV or you can listen a soothing music. It is time to head back to the cubicle to get dressed. Hammam is great way of maintaining cleanliness of skin, regulating metabolism and elimination of accumulated toxins for your body. Furthermore, hammam treatment smoothens your skin. Essential oils and aromas can be applied to person’s skin. It is important to use a heated environment for the oils to penetrate into skin. Once a person starts going to hammam regularly, then he or she is in need of going hammam so often to experience that ritual again and again. It is an addiction.
Hammams that incorporate the use of mud are considered Moroccan-style (in Turkey, mud isn’t used). In the Moroccan tradition, using soap derived from black olives to cleanse the skin and a volcanic clay mask to treat hair. The full-body treatment includes a hair wash, condition and scalp massage; the therapist uses a black soap on the body to deep clean, exfoliates with a mitt and finishes with a full-body clay mask before rinsing off. The Hammam is an incredibly important part of Moroccan culture and daily life. Men, women and children will visit their local Hammam at least once or twice of a week, and spend couple hours there, catching up on gossip with their friends, and following the long rituals for cleansing their bodies and skin. In a Turkish Hammam, they use suds and soapy water which coats a person’s body with soap.
In old days, hammams became communities’ focal points. Often hammams were playing a big role in people’s life at their main events from youth to old age. Hammams were centers of social gatherings, populated on almost every occasion with traditional entertainment and ceremonies, such as bridals, celebrating newborns, military service etc. The hammams also might contain mikvehs, ritual cleansing baths for Jewish women.
Some special accessories are being used at modern hammams: such as the peştemal (a special cloth of silk and/or cotton, to cover the body), takunya (special wooden clogs that would prevent the wearer from slipping on the wet floor, often decorated with silver or mother-of-pearl), kese (a rough mitt for massage), and sometimes jewel boxes, soap boxes, henna bowls mirrors, perfume bottles.
The Ottomans were famous for their domed and beautifully marble & mosaic hammams, the crowning example being the Baths of Roxelana (built in 1556 Hürrem hamami), with its massive towering steam rooms, private washing quarters, and lounging massage platforms. These were typical of hammams throughout the Empire.
Revitalizing Hammam Culture would unite all Arab, Greek, North African, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Russian, Jewish and Persian cultures together again in this century.
The new hammam trend is now hitting United States:
With more and more people looking to hammams for health, wellness, anti-aging and relaxation, hammam going has been described as a new cultural trend. But, in fact, hammam going has been practiced for thousands of years from the Mesopotamians and Egyptians to the Greeks and Romans and later, the Ottomans, Japanese and Western Europeans.
One of the latest trends on the rise in the spa world is the hammam experience. In this decade, in which people who’ve never heard the term hammam will learn its meaning, and those already familiar with it will discover new designs and places to experience it in the USA.
The new hammam trend is now hitting United States. A hammam is not simply a steam room. With the incorporation of wellness into many individuals’ lives, hammams are becoming more common at resorts and spas worldwide.
Health Benefits of Hammam
It serves for full body cleaning, toxins elimination;
It helps opening of pours. Skin cleaning (preventing inflammatory processes on the skin); It can also help to eliminate fatigue, irritability and depression.
It might be good for respiratory system cleaning. It might help curing from bronchitis, inflammatory processes in larynx and pharynx.
It helps nervous system relaxation. It might help getting rid of insomnia, headaches and migraines.
It might prevent various musculoskeletal diseases;
It might help improvement of the blood circulation.
It might have beneficial effect on the muscles and joints, sport injuries and bruises treatment, especially lower back injuries.
It might serve purification and improvement of lungs and gastrointestinal tract functioning.
It might improve normalization of the head skin sebaceous glands, improvement of the blood circulation in the scalp skin;
It might enhance beneficial effect on almost every vital system of the body.
It serves improvement of immune system. Hammam is a stimulating aid for human body.
It might improve libido.
Hammam cosmetically affects the skin:
Hammam is an excellent way to purify body and mind. The hammam was both a community bathhouse and ritual when in civilizations where plumbing was sparse and the use and warming of water had to be shared and conserved. It is an ancient and very effective form of skin cleaning. During the bath session pores open resulting to the excretion of various harmful substances from the body, and also allowing the body to breathe much easier. It might help to prevent hearth diseases. After having a bath in hammam, skin topicals and aromatherapy is better received by the body because the pores are open. Further, the lymphatic system is stimulated during a hammam session allowing for toxins to be released through perspiration. By replenishing the body’s hydration cellular renewal is enhanced.
Although, Turkish bath or hammam has quite good references regarding to its positive effect on the body, still there are some contraindications to the attendance of the bath of such type. Consult your doctor before having a hammam treatment. Hammam is considered to be the most health friendly type of bath for a person. Nevertheless, people with health problems should consult with their doctor in advance to visiting a hammam.
Severe inflammatory processes in internal organs;
Heart diseases (infarction),
Severe kidney diseases;
Auditory and visual system diseases,
Severe diseases of the respiratory organs,
Various mental disorders,
No matter where you enjoy a hammam treatment you can expect to emerge renewed, invigorated and radiant.