Or "hamam" in Turkish.
The tradition of the Turkish Bath extends pretty far back, to a time before the Turks had reached Anatolia. When they got there, they brought with them their bathing traditions but were confronted with others, specifically, that of the Romans and Byzantines. The traditions were merged and with the addition of the Islamic concerns for cleanliness and the accompanying respect for water, the Turkish Bath was born.
On the outside, the Turkish bath have a domed profile with partitions of glass that direct the beams of light. Inside, the "hamam' is broken down into three rooms.
The first of the rooms is the "camekan," a square court with a fountain that is surrounded by small individual changing cubicles. This leads to a "sogukluk," a room designed as a cooling off section. This opened up into the "hararet," or the hot and steamy portion of the Turkish Bath.
Inside the hararet, a raised marble platform would be in the center. It is positioned above the wood or coal furnaces that heat the bath.
The hamam was actually a place of socialization for the Turks and contrary to popular belief, it was open to all men and women, regardless of their place in Turkish society. They did, however, have to bathe at separate hours. Many rituals and celebrations took place inside the hamam and a whole range of equipment was used during the trip to the baths. Here's a partial list of some of the rituals:
- A newborns fortieth day of life
- The bathing of the bride, complete with food and music
- The Avowal - the ritual consisted of making a promise or vow contingent upon the fulfillment of an important wish. The person fulfilling their vow arranged and paid for the celebration which was open to one and all
- Ritual mourning of loved ones
- Hospitality bathing was simply the taking of ones guest to the bath for a wash
- Off To The Army bathings were often quite popular.
As I mentioned earlier, a whole range of equipment was also used at the hamam; here's a list of some them:
- The "pestemal," a large towel fringed at both ends and wrapped around one's torso, usually striped or checked. Depending one ones station, the towel could be of a mixture of silk and cotton, pure cotton, or even pure silk.
- The "nalin," a pair of wooden clogs. Usually hand carved and embellished most often with mother of pearl.
- The "tas," a bowl for pouring water over the body. The tas was always made of metal, usualy silver, copper or brass.
- A soap case, also made out of metal, usually copper. It had a handle on top like a handbag and was perforated at the bottom to allow water to run out.
- The "kese," a rough cloth mitt that not only scoured the dirt out of the pores but was used to give massages
- For women: a small jewelry box made of silver, copper, or wood and sometimes covered with wicker, felt or velvet.
In its own way, the Turkish Bath acted as a beautician's school for women where they practiced both care of the body and hair and the donning of make up. Since they were almost exclusively kept indoors, the baths provided them with an outlet where they could relax.
For men, the baths provided a place where they could discuss the latest goings on, talk business or politics and the latest scandals of the day.