World
Fact-checked

At CulturalWorld, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is a Turkish Bath?

A Turkish bath, or hammam, is an oasis of wellness steeped in ancient traditions. It's a ritualistic sequence of steam bathing, exfoliation, and relaxation, promoting both physical and mental rejuvenation. This communal space serves as a cultural cornerstone, offering a unique blend of social interaction and personal care. Ready to uncover the secrets behind its enduring allure? Join us on this journey.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

A Turkish bath is called a hamam. It usually includes massage and a tea bar. Some hamams in Istanbul are over 250 years old and some upscale hotels there also offer a similar experience.

The first step in experiencing a traditional Turkish bath is getting ready in the camekan, or changing room. You undress in a private booth where you can lock up your street clothing and change into a pestemal and terlik, which are a fringed towel wrap and a pair of slippers. Many people bring the rest of what they need such as a drying towel, shampoo and soap because some hamams don't supply these items and the ones that do may charge a high price for them.

Istanbul, Turkey, has some hamams that are more than 250 years old.
Istanbul, Turkey, has some hamams that are more than 250 years old.

You usually can choose whether you'd like to take a bath by yourself or have a hamam attendant scrub your skin with a coarse mitt. The hair treatment usually includes a scalp massage with a shampoo. The bathing room is a steam bath with separate washing areas around a heated stone table called a goebektas that is used for massage after the steam bath.

After the steam bath and massage, hamam patrons go to a cooling room with cooler showers. Tea is usually available to drink. A visit to a Turkish bath may take two hours or even more.

The idea of a Turkish bath is to sweat, much like in a sauna.
The idea of a Turkish bath is to sweat, much like in a sauna.

The idea behind the Turkish bath is to sweat much like one does in a sauna, but with the added elements of water, cleansing and massage. The hamam has been part of the Turkish culture for hundreds of years and connects with the Muslim appreciation for water and for cleanliness. This treatment is for people of all ages and social classes.

In Turkey, the gelin hamam, or bride's bath, is a big part of Turkish culture even today. The bridal Turkish bath day often includes live music and food. Traditionally, unmarried women throw coins into the hamam pool and make a wish that they will marry the man they hope to wed. Some of the five star hotels in Istanbul have bridal Turkish bath specials.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a Turkish bath?

A Turkish bath typically includes a steam bath and massage followed by a cool rinse and tea break.
A Turkish bath typically includes a steam bath and massage followed by a cool rinse and tea break.

A Turkish bath, also known as a hammam, is a traditional steam bath that originated in the Ottoman Empire. It involves a process of deep cleansing and relaxation in a warm, humid environment. The experience typically includes a period of warming the body in a hot room, followed by a full-body wash, a massage, and finally, a period of relaxation in a cooler room. The Turkish bath is not only a cleansing ritual but also a social and cultural experience, deeply embedded in Turkish and Middle Eastern traditions.

How does a Turkish bath differ from a sauna or a regular steam bath?

It's likely that Roman bathing practices influenced those in places such as Turkey.
It's likely that Roman bathing practices influenced those in places such as Turkey.

While saunas, steam baths, and Turkish baths all use heat, they differ in humidity levels and cultural practices. A sauna, typically Finnish, uses dry heat with low humidity, whereas a steam bath has high humidity and moderate temperatures. A Turkish bath combines elements of both, with a focus on steam and water, but it also incorporates a sequence of rooms with increasing temperatures, a scrubbing process, and a massage. The hammam experience is more communal and ritualistic compared to the more solitary nature of saunas and steam baths.

What are the health benefits of a Turkish bath?

Some Turkish bathhouses offer massage therapy sessions.
Some Turkish bathhouses offer massage therapy sessions.

According to health experts, Turkish baths can offer several benefits, including improved circulation, detoxification through sweating, muscle relaxation, and stress reduction. The exfoliation process during a hammam visit removes dead skin cells, promoting healthier skin. Additionally, the heat can help alleviate respiratory issues by clearing nasal passages. It's important to note that while many people find Turkish baths beneficial, those with certain health conditions should consult a doctor before participating.

What should I expect during my first visit to a Turkish bath?

During your first visit to a Turkish bath, expect to move through different rooms with varying temperatures. You'll start in a warm room to relax and sweat, followed by a hot room for deeper perspiration. An attendant, known as a tellak, may then provide a body scrub and massage. Afterward, you'll be rinsed with cool water and move to a cooling-down room. It's customary to wear a towel or a traditional wrap called a pestemal, and bathing suits are often worn for modesty.

Are there any etiquette tips I should know before going to a Turkish bath?

When visiting a Turkish bath, it's important to respect local customs and etiquette. It's recommended to stay hydrated before and after the bath, as you'll be sweating a lot. Use the provided pestemal to cover yourself, and bring flip-flops for hygiene. Be prepared to tip the attendants who provide personal services like scrubs and massages. Lastly, maintain a quiet and respectful demeanor, as hammams are places of relaxation and tranquility.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

serenesurface

So do Turkish people still go to Turkish baths to bathe, or is it just a touristic attraction now?

candyquilt

I went to a Turkish bath house when I visited Istanbul. My friends and I changed into a towel that they provided us with along with wooden slippers. Of course, there were separate sections for men and women and I think some bath houses appointed separate days for men and women to bathe.

It was very hot in the bath. The structure of it, the stones and running hot water was really nice and interesting. A couple of my friends got a scrub as well. We were there for a couple of hours.

But I must say that the heat was a bit too much for me, I had to have cold drinks to stay in the bath area. Everyone else seemed just fine though.

ysmina

In the Ottoman times, visiting the hamam was the only option for bathing. It was also a place where women socialized and future mother-in-laws saw and selected brides for their sons.

I actually did not know of all this until I watched a movie that showed Ottoman life. It looked fun but also kind of awkward, as the women arrived at the hamam with homemade food and musical instruments for entertainment.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Istanbul, Turkey, has some hamams that are more than 250 years old.
      By: EvrenKalinbacak
      Istanbul, Turkey, has some hamams that are more than 250 years old.
    • The idea of a Turkish bath is to sweat, much like in a sauna.
      By: CandyBox Images
      The idea of a Turkish bath is to sweat, much like in a sauna.
    • A Turkish bath typically includes a steam bath and massage followed by a cool rinse and tea break.
      By: Karramba Production
      A Turkish bath typically includes a steam bath and massage followed by a cool rinse and tea break.
    • It's likely that Roman bathing practices influenced those in places such as Turkey.
      It's likely that Roman bathing practices influenced those in places such as Turkey.
    • Some Turkish bathhouses offer massage therapy sessions.
      By: Photographee.eu
      Some Turkish bathhouses offer massage therapy sessions.