19 Jun, 2013

What is a Turkish Bath?

A Turkish bath or hamam is similar to a Scandinavian sauna but is closer to a Roman bath. It is based on the same principles as the steambath but the focus is on water rather than steam. At Spa Experience we combine all of these relaxation and bathing techniques from around the word for your enjoyment. In Turkey thehamam is a gently heated, tiled room with a heated marble slab called göbek taşı (tummy stone). Visitors lie on the stone slab and are scrubbed for exfoliation, then massaged with oils and finally washed clean with hot water. at Spa Experience locations the hamam is a warmed seating area where visitors can relax between uses of the steam rooms or sauna. Many of our beauty treatments also take place on a warmed stone slab, on which you can be massaged by our trained beauty therapists. 

The Turkish bath combines the techniques of the Roman bath with that of the central Asian steam bath. The Turks called the Roman baths, hamam, which is actually an Arabic word meaning bath. The Arabs built versions of the Greek-Roman baths that they encountered following their conquest of Alexandria in 641 AD. The Turks were enslaved by the Arabs and in this way were introduced to Arabic culture. The shamanistic and Buddhist Turks, having emigrated from Central Asia to what is now Turkey, converted to Islam after the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana between the 7th and 8th century AD. By the 15th century the Turks had completely conquered the formerly Christian Byzantine empire. It was during this period that the Hellenized Roman and Turkish cultures heavily influenced each other and gave birth to cultural fusion that is the Turkish bath. Some of the early Turkish baths were in old Roman baths while others were built adjacently to mosques, serving both as communal centres and as houses of worship.

Many baths were built under the Ottoman empire, particularly in its capital Constantinople but were also present in every Ottoman city. Unlike Scandinavian saunas, there were separate quarters for men and woman, in smaller baths men and women were admitted at different times.

These days Turkish baths employ trained adult attendants to massage visitors but prior to the defeat of the Ottoman empire in the early 20th century, they were massaged by young boys called tellak. These masseurs were recruited from among the ranks of the non-Muslim subject nations of the Ottoman empire, such as Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Albanians and Bulgarians.

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