Today I’m going to introduce you something you haven’t read on my blog before. If you visit Turkey or any Arabic country don’t miss the occasion to visit a real hamam. As you probably might have recognized this word has an Arabic origin and it simply means bathroom. But believe me it’s much more than only a usual bathroom you might know from home as you have some spa in it. And it’s an opportunity to do something both for your body and for your vocabulary. Please keep in mind that men and women can enter at different times separately from each other. The Turkish hamams usually write it at their entrance along with their opening hours when men and women can enter. There are lots of hamams in Istanbul, of course. But there are two of them that are the most famous ones and they both are only a few minutes away from Sultanahmet Mosque. One is the Çemberlitaş Hamamı near the Grand Bazaar and the other one is the Cağaloğlu Hamamı. I chose the second one during my trip to Istanbul and I have to admit that the prices for the service are quite high in comparison to other activities in this city. Many hotels do also have a hamam with spa. On this picture here you can see the main entrance of the famous Cağaloğlu Hamamı in Istanbul.
The story of the hamam
Like so many things in the Turkish or Ottoman culture the traditional hamam has its origins in the Arabic culture which has had very strong influences in whole Europe as well. The philosophy behind the hamam is that you can’t get really clean when taking a bath in steady water as the dirt doesn’t flow away. That’s why many people in Arabic countries can’t understand how on earth those Europeans or American can wash themselves in a bathtub. This is the main reason for the invention of the hamam in the Arabic countries which has been brought to Ottoman Turkey along with the Islam. Here you can see how the Cağaloğlu Hamamı looks like from inside.
Some vocabulary for the hamam
When visiting a hamam the first Turkish word you have to know is peştamal. It’s a huge towel you get before entering the bath. First of all you get into a room with a high temperature just to sweat out. It is a little bit comparable to a traditional Finnish sauna and you have to spend there about ten minutes. And after this the real fun will begin. Starting with a peeling you get some foam on your body. But let me first give you an advice. After the peeling you should avoid using to much shower gel as your skin layer will be thiner now and the chemical substances may penetrate easier into your body. Another word you have to know is köpük which means foam in Turkish. This is the best occasion to talk to the staff and to improve your Turkish skills. And believe me they will appreciate it. But watch out because as fast as you improve your language skills you will get a few buckets of water poure over your head. And I’m speaking about both hot and cold water. I also got a massage afterwards. At first you will think that these guys are going to break all your bones but when it’s over you will feel like new born. And of course they offer you some tea afterwards while you sit there and relax in your peştamal. As I told you it’s not a very cheap adventure but I think that it’s really worth the price and I would definitely do it again when travelling to Turkey or any Arabic country.
You see a Turkish hamam is the best place to do something both for your health and to get in contact with the hospitable Turkish people who will really appreciate it that you make an attempt at learning their language. And believe me the kebab I had for dinner afterwards tasted even better. But about the Turkish cuisine with all its delights and some new vocabulary to learn I’m going to tell you in my next article. So stay tuned!