Hammam is a word originated from Arabic language which is used the public bathhouse. It is a place is utilized for cleaning and purifying of body and for healing from some diseases. Because being healthy is a dominant need in life. Turkish baths and thermal springs have been built to meet this need.
Having a bath was a precaution against diseases and a means for healing in past times. In the fourth century Before Christ, Roman people have built bathing houses for utilizing them as body training and healing centers. Because, some sportive and cultural events have taken place in such centers in addition to cleaning purpose.
In the life of Turkish people, hammams were not only used as cleaning places, but only as buildings for performing health-related, social and cultural events like Roman people. Those places were important social areas which are constructed in accordance with the belief of the society.
That’s why, it is considered that Turkish baths inspired from Roman bathing houses, but gained their fundamental architectural features from Islamic life style. For instance, domes of baths are similar to domes of mosques.
In Ottoman times, since a water used by somebody else was deemed unclean, pools were not constructed in them. Instead, basins called “kurna” placed under running water had been used to take always clean water from to have a bath.
That’s why, Turkish baths are different from Roman bathing houses in terms of washing way of body while they are similar in functionality and architectural point of view.
Turks have built thousands of hammams after the conquest of Istanbul. In the seventeenth century, there were 168 big bazaar hammams merely in Istanbul.
A Turkish Bath comprises of 3 different sections:
- Undressing Places
- Bathing Places: Cold section, Warm section (Hammam)
- Heating department / Furnace (Külhan)
Undressing places: In this place, there are a broad anteroom and separated compartments surrounding it. Hammam users undress in these compartments before bathing, and get rest here after bathing.
Bathing places: The inside of hammam has some parts. One of them called “kurna başı” which stands for the basin and its surrounding is a bathing place for people together, the other one called “halvet” is a department for bathing alone, and the last one is “göbek taşı” which means navel stone. This part is a raised platform in several geometric forms which is used to lie down on for perspiration and detoxification.
Heating department/Furnace : This department is located under the hammam and heats the bathing place with wood fire. The smoke is discharged through a pipe called “tüteklik”. It works heating a water tank on the fireplace and heated water is transported into canals which go to under the navel stone. The place under this stone is very dark and hot, so it is called “cehennem” which means “hell”. Most of Turkish baths are for women for some week days and for men for other days. If a bath has double departments, it is called “çifte hamam”, and one of the department is for women and the other is for men for everyday.
There are a lot of historical hammams in Istanbul. Some of them are currently in use while others have been demolished. Baths of Beyazıt, Çemberlitaş, Hoca Paşa, Fındıklı, Fatih Mehmedağa are some well-known hammams which are operational. There are olso some Palace Hammams such as Dolmabahçe and Topkapı Hammams in Istanbul which are only historical and architectural buildings today. In other cities of Turkey, Turkish Baths are common and in use. Most of them such as Gönen and Bursa Baths are thermal springs and functional as hammams.
Tourists coming to Turkey usually visit Turkish Baths. Since there is an increasing interest to hammams, many hotels and spa facilities constructed Turkish Baths in their places. Besides cities in Turkey, other world cities started having Turkish Baths.
The benefits of Turkish Bath have been known since past years. It has some indirect effects such as enhancing blood circulation and stimulating immune system, besides the cleaning and detoxifying functions. It supports physical and mental activities.
Turkish baths and steam rooms beautify the skin and make the body more flexible. They reduce daily stress and remove muscle contraction. Other benefits of such warm therapies are to eliminate pains, aches and inflammations on some body parts. They also relieves asthma and allergic reactions and remove breathing congestion while dilating trachea. Hot mediums don’t cure a cold but ensure an easier respiration.