Hammam Experience in Istanbul. Jan.2nd 2015

Posted on January 21, 2015 at 10:25 AM

The first time I tried a hamam was in Morocco a few years ago and it was a fabulous experience; but, I always wanted to try the real Turkish hamam. After all, it originated there. This January when we visited Istanbul, at the center of the city, we found the Cagaloglu hamam which is listed on the book <1,000 Places to see before you die>. The entrance itself is small, but beautiful. After buying our tickets, we were ushered into two sperate sections, men’s and women’s. I went to the women’s quarter to a small changing room, where I was given a bathrobe and clogs. After I changed, a lady took me by my hand and walked me to a nice warm room where I was supposed to relax for a few minutes. I couldn't really because I was too excited about what was coming. After about 15 min, I was taken to a beautiful big warm hall where I layed down on marble stone and where the masseuse washed my body vigorously, scrubbing with the mitten and abundant soap followed by a reviving massage. After srubbing, she used a soft brush to clean my body - that was devine -, than she used luke warm water to wash away the suds and residue. At this point, I felt like I went to heaven! My masseuse slowly walked me to the water fountain and rinsed my body with clean fresh, cool water, the feeling again was devine. After this beautiful experience, she made me sit down on a floor and gave me a shampoo with a fabulous scalp massage. I like nothing more than a good and firm scalp massage. After being cleaned and massaged, I retired to a so called cooling room. Here I relaxed and allowed the stress-relieving benefits of the treatment to take full effect.:)

The whole treatment took about an hour and I can trully say, it was a unique experience! But, was this really one of the 1,000 places you really have to see before you die? I am not quite sure! Although, the place was really beautiful and clean, it was not that extraordinary. 

Entrance to the ladies quarter.


A little history of the Hamam.

Like so much else in Turkish culture, the hamam dates back to the Ottoman Empire. The steam bath in Ottoman times had three basic functions: a place for social gathering; ritual cleansing connected to the Muslim faith, which required spiritual and physical cleanliness; and an architectural witness to the sultan's greatness, power and wealth.

The most impressive examples of hamam architecture are found in Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire and former capital of the Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans adopted and continued this practice when they conquered the Byzantines in 1450. No expenses were spared in lavish construction and decoration of the hamams. Valuable materials were used not only in the ruler's private hamam, but also in the public baths. Most of these baths are still functional and in use today.
Originally, the use of the hamam was restricted to men, but that has since changed. In Ottoman times, each harem would have its own hamam, for women's use only. In modern times, men and women are now both allowed in the same hamam, although they bath in separate rooms. Smaller hamams have ladies' days.
Particularly during the Ottoman Empire, hamams were a place for socializing. The bath was open from sunrise to sunset and frequented not only for washing but also for use of the barber, exchange of gossip and news, and even business meetings. In the ladies' section, women could investigate the physical and social qualities of prospective daughters-in-law, enjoy music and entertainment, and indulge in sweets.

The Cagaloglu hamam was a gift to the city in 1741 from Sultan Mehmet I. and it is belived that King Edward VIII., Kaiser Wilhelm II., Franz Liszt and Florence Nightingale from the oldies, Tony Curtis, John Travolta, Cameron Diaz - the newer stars - have all visited its white-marble domed steam room.

Main entrance.


Categories: Saunas, Turkish Baths/Hammams,

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