The Must-Haves of a Turkish Bath

LIDYA DURMAZGULER

Oil painting of Turkish hammam in Ottoman Empire

I would like to tell you about the indispensable items in a Turkish bath and then the hammam ritual itself. Without the following five fundamentals, a Turkish bath is not a Turkish bath:

  • Navel Stone (Göbek Taşı): Anyone who wants to be scrubbed receives service by lying on the navel stone. For this reason, the platform is used in all services to receive professional help in the bath. It is also known to be used for rest and sweating. The navel stone helps to relax the muscles as it is a warm marble platform. You can lie down on this platform and rest your body for a few minutes to relax. 
  • Halvet: A separate little bathing area in the corner of the space is referred to as a private bathroom. The plan of private rooms is usually square, rectangular, or polygonal, with a dome or vault as a top cover. In the private rooms, there are seats and basins.
  • Kurna: A marble or stone basin made under the faucets in baths to mix hot and cold water and to collect and use it little by little with a bowl is called a "kurna".
  • Hammam Bowl: It is used to pour warm water on the body to get rid of soap, before and after scrubbing.
  • Turkish Towel: Turkish towels are made of Turkish cotton with extra long fibers. They are the perfect items for a hammam experience. They're lightweight, thin, and absorbent. Also known as ‘fouta’, ’peshtemal' is an essential part of a Turkish bath.

What Services Are Available?

The services provided in Turkish baths may vary according to the baths. However in general, after softening your body with hot water for 20-30 minutes without soap and foam next to any ‘kurna’, scrubbing, soapy massage, and washing are provided later on by the hammam staff. In addition, social events such as bridal bath, henna ceremony, groom bath, groom's shave are held in Turkish baths. Some of these events have food and drinks with amazing music, dancing and various cultural entertainment.

Men and Women Sections

Traditional Turkish baths include separate male and female areas. Your experiences will be identical as bathing routines are the same regardless of gender. If taking a soothing bath with your partner is important to you, there are some modernized hammams that cater to couples as well.

What to Wear

Light clothing is recommended. You might use a 'peshtemal,' the famous Turkish towel with its distinctive fabric. The most essential item of a hammam experience is the 'peshtemal', thanks to its simplicity and efficiency. It prevents the body from being seen and also allows you to benefit from the heat of the bath. It may be used on both the body and the head. During the bathing, scrubbing, and resting periods, the ‘peshtemal' could be changed 2-3 times.

Another interesting hammam item is the wood clogs. They are made of wood. Since the hammam floor is frequently wet and slippery, wood clogs are worn on the feet to avoid slipping and falling.

The Step of Traditional Turkish Hammam Ritual

When you enter the bath, you are allocated a 'tellak'. Tellak is the name given to the man who works in the bath. The lady who performs the task of the teller is called 'natır'. Tellak is the person who fulfills the special service requests consisting of oily or aromatic oils in special massage rooms for the person who enters the hammam, scrubbing, bubble bath, massage, or after the hammam.

Tellak determines a sequence according to the services you will receive, if you want a pouch to be made, first it gives you a pillow and an external loincloth to soften your navel stone. While you rest there for 20 minutes, your body will both soften and rest, and then tellak will take you to make a pouch. It sits on the head of your basin and begins to scrub, after removing the dead skin on your softened body, it washes you thoroughly with soap.

Then he/she takes you back to the navel stone and gives you a soapy massage on it. After the massage, which lasts for about 15 minutes, it takes you back to the basin and cleans it well.  

 Then, optionally, he/she washes you one last time with soapy washcloths and takes you out to have a hammam show, that is, to wrap it up nicely with towels.

How Long Does the Experience Last?

The whole process from start to finish takes around an hour, but the massage and scrubbing will take 15 minutes. Once you have paid the entrance and service fee, you can stay in most hammams for as long as you want. If you are in a popular and busy hammam, this may not be the case, but it won’t hurt to ask for a bit more time if you want to stay a little longer.

Next article: Benefits of a Turkish Bath

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