Thursday, July 28, 2011

Turkish Bath

Turkish bath is similar to that of a sauna, but is more closely related to ancient Greek and ancient Roman bathing practices. Turkish bath (Hamam) consists of three rooms called "sicaklik" (hot room), the warm room and "sogukluk" (cool room). Sicaklik is used for soaking up steam and getting massage. The warm room is for washing up with a soap and sogukluk is used for relaxing

If you ask a foreigner in Turkey what the words Ottoman, and Turkey, call to mind, many will say, "Turkish baths," better known in Turkey as a "hamam." Although nowadays only a handful of hamams remain, and even those serve to entertain tourists as another spot in their daily tours, hamams were an integral part of Ottoman, and therefore Turkish, culture for centuries.

Over time, the washing aspect of going to hamams became secondary. People came to bring food, their pets, and invite friends, musicians and belly dancers to hamams. Following a bath and a massage, women, with only a linen cloth around them, fixed their eyebrows, dyed their hair, and sometimes hands and feet as well, with henna and waxed themselves.

Sources reveal that what fascinated the Europeans the most about the hamams in the Ottoman period was the "removal of body hair." Much fiction and research penned by Europeans give detailed accounts of this.

Therefore, there were two basic functions of going to hamams. The first, to wash so that one could pray or go to the mosque. The second, to make women's lives less boring. Hamam visits were a good excuse for women to leave their houses. There were, of course, imbroglios arising from women's leaving their houses to go to hamams, but ending up somewhere else.

As mentioned previously hamams were also a means of finding a partner. Mothers asked friends if they knew any suitable girls for their sons, or even checked the girls out while they were bathing. Young girls sometimes deliberately showed themselves off in hamams for this very reason. Then there were "wedding hamams," just before the wedding, which resembled modern wild bachelor parties.

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