Turkish Baths

Have you ever been to a Turkish Bath? You should experience this tradition.

25/06/2014

Delightful pleasure under the brilliant dome

 

 This is a great tradition to experience Turkish baths withtheir brilliant domes, tellaks (the bath attendant that rubs the customer), natırs (female tellak) and embroidered walls that remains from the glorious days of the Ottoman Era

It all began with curiosity. It seemed strange not to have ever visited a Turkish Bath as a person grown up in a city and culture famous for its baths. What were these places like, renowned world wide as “Turkish Baths”? A place where both natives and foreigners enjoy; and which have been a subject to movies (for example The Turkish Bath (1997) directed by Ferzan Özpetek) and also provide perfect acoustics for music videos? Therefore, get ready for delightful pleasure under the brilliant dome.

 

Before…

 

 Before going, I explored the history of the Turkish Bath from several sources. The word “hamam” means “to warm up” or “heat” in the Arabic language. But the origin of the “hamam” goes back to the Roman Age. After Bursa became the capital city, the Ottoman carried on the bath tradition of the Roman Empire and Byzantium.

 

After the Conquest of Istanbul

 

 The Turkish Bath turned into a tradition in the glorious days of the Ottoman. After the conquest, baths were built at all corners of Istanbul. The records state that in the period of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, 19 baths were built in Istanbul and Evliya Çelebi’s writings indicate that in the 17th century there were 168 bazaar baths in Istanbul.

Evidently, the bath tradition has an important place in the daily life of the Istanbulites. And this culture is enriched with various traditions, where the bath is visited on certain special occasions.

In the old days, bathing did not consist only of washing. There were several rituals involved. The preparations started the day before, by informing the neighbors, preparing meals like stuffed vegetables, pastry and fruit.

Baths were especially vital places for women. Mothers chose brides, women chatted and gossiped and entertaining activities accompanied with music were organized. Women also showed off with their new jewelry and clothes. They even had the right to divorce if their husbands did not allow them to go to a bath twice a week!

Although this tradition is no longer followed, Turkish baths still attract the curiosity of natives and foreigners.

 hamam

 

This is called “heat” 

 

As soon as you take a step into the outer door of the bath, you feel slight heat on your face. After you leave your stuff in the changing room, you put on your loincloths called “peştemal” and special slippers “takunya” and go into the bathroom and move into the bath proper. The first target area is “heat room”, the warmest place of the bath. 

The “Heat room” is an octagon room with a 50 cm high marble platform, heated from the ground, namely “göbek taşı”. You should lie down to relax your muscles and get ready to rub your skin. You may feel too hot at first but your body adjusts soon and your bones get warm and you begin to feel relaxed. In the other parts of the “heat room” there are special sections called “halvet” (private room). In the halvets you may find marble basins, for personal bathing. You may get soaped and washed in the kurnas (basins of the bath).
However the main event in a Turkish bath is the rubbing process. You lie down on the heated marble and the natır, the female bath attendant, (for men, the “tellak”, and male bath attendant) rubs you until you get relaxed. Then soaping and massage begins. You become clean and purified from your distress, all your burdens evaporate and vanish.

After the bathing episode is completed, you will surely feel a pleasant laziness. Then you should not hurry, for you may stay in the “heat room” as long as you wish. Meanwhile, you may double your joy with an icy soda water.

 

After the bath... 

 

We got cleaned and it’s time to go. Now I understand much better why they say “who goes into a bath,gets sweaty”. But this proverb gives the message, “If you set out to do something, you should be ready to confront with all its difficulties”. At first it seems to be a difficult to go in a bath and to sweat. But you get used to it pretty soon. 

After a bath pleasure of 2 hours you will get heartily thirsty. When you step out with pinky cheeks, you will see how relaxed you are and I am sure that you will enjoy a sweet sleep when you get home.  

We suggest you to check out the hotels that have Turkish bath inside, otherwise there are lots of Turkish baths in the city: 

 

Popular Turkish Baths in Istanbul 

 

 

Cağaloglu Hamam

cagaloglu_hamami

 The architect who built the bath on behalf of Sultan Mahmud I is not known. The bath has the harmony of the baroque style and Ottoman architecture, and is also designed - like Çemberlitaş Bath - as a double-bath.

It is open for women from 08.00 am to 20.00 pm and for men from 08.00 am to 22.00 pm. 

Address: Prof. İsmail Gürkan Av. No: 34 Cağaloğlu - Eminönü
Ph: +90 212 522 24 24
 


Süleymaniye Hamam

 Suleymaniye Bath, designed by Sinan the architect is a part of the complex (kulliye) including the Süleymaniye Mosque. In the bath there is a lodge built for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and nowadays the bath is running as a touristic establishment in which women and men may bathe together.

Address: Mimar Sinan Av. No: 20 Süleymaniye
Ph: +90 212 520 34 10
 


Galatasaray Hamam

galatasaray_hamami

Galatasaray Bath, built in 1715 as a mosque bath open to the public, has classic Turkish architectural style. Located in one of the central parts of Istanbul, the bath attracts attention from tourists and is open for women from 08.00 am to 19.00 pm and for men from 07.00 am to 22.00 pm. 

Adress: Turnacıbaşı St. No: 24 Galatasaray
Ph: +90 212 252 42 42


Çinili Bath

The bath, built in 1640, got its name from Çinili Mosque. There are two separate sections for women and men. The women section serves from 08.00 am to 19.30 pm and the men section serves from 07.00 am to 22.00 pm everyday.

Address: Murat Reis Mahallesi Çavuşdere Av. Üsküdar
Ph: +90 216 553 15 93 (men section), +90 216 334 97 10 (women section) 


Büyük Hamam

Büyük Hamam, built in 1533, is in Kasımpaşa. Built by Sinan the architect, the bath has two separate sections for women and men.
+Women section is open from 08.00 am to 20.00 pm. Men section is opened with the morning pray and gets closed at 22.30 pm.

Address: Potinciler St. Next to Büyük Mosque Kasımpaşa
Ph: +90 212 253 42 29 


 

Cemberlitaş Hamam

cemberlitas_hamami

The bath, built at the behest of Sultan Murad III’s mother Nurbanu Sultan, was designed by Sinan the Architect in 1584. In the double-bath styled Cemberlitaş Bath, there are two identical sections. One of them is reserved for women and the other one is for men.
Cemberlitas is open everyday between 06.00 and 24.00. Admission fee is 60 TRY. 

Address: Vezirhan Av. No: 8 Cemberlitaş - Eminönü
Ph: +90 212 520 18 50


Ağa Hamam 

Ağa Bath was built in 1454 and is in Beyoglu. The bath is open everyday except Sunday. Entrance fee is 40 TRY
Address: Turnacıbası St. - Cihangir
Tel: +90 212 249 50 27

Bibliography:
Türk Hamamı, Orhan Yılmazkaya, Çitlembik Publications, 2002, İstanbul

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