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Hamam Rituals

 Untitled Document Long ago, a visit to Hamam was an elaborate affair, requiring planning and the help of servants. It was natural for a woman visiting a Hamam to bring with her a bundle of up to 20 different articles, which she would use during her visit. Let's see what sort of things she would have brought to the Hamam.

The peştemal, a large striped or checked towel fringed at both ends; usually a colored mixture of silk and cotton or pure coton or even pure silk; the woman would wrap herself in it, and it would cover her from armpit height to mid-thigh, worn as the woman made her way to kurna (the marble basin).

A pair of wooden clogs called nalın: exquisitely carved and embroidered most often with mother-of-pearl, or even sheathed in tooled silver; sometimes they had jingles, or a woven straw sheath, or vere appliquéd with felt or brass; clogs kept the wearer's feet clear of the wet floor.

The tas: metal bowl for pouring water over the body; it always had grooved and inlaid ornamentation whether made of silver, gilt or tinned copper, or of brass.

Soap, shampoo and other toiletries: these were carried in hand crafted copper or even gold plated boxes called tarak kutusu (translated to mean "comb boxes).

Soap case, made of metal, hand crafted copper or even gold plated, with a handle on top like a handbag, and perforated at the bottom to allow water to run out. Not only soap was placed in the case but also combs, both fine and broad-toothed, made of horn or ivory.

The kese: a coarse mitten carried in the soap case, it not only scoured the dirt out of the pores, but also served to deliver a bracing massage; it was specially woven out of hair or plant fibers.

A small "jewelry box": silver, copper or wood, sometimes covered with, wicker, felt, velvet or silver; as the woman would undress in the Hamam, she would remove her jewelry and place it in this box.

Towels: there were three towels for drying, one to go around the hair like a turban, one around the shoulders, and one around the waist.

The yaygı: a Hamam carpet; the carpet was laid on the floor with another cloth spread over top of it an the women would sit to undress; after each visit to the Hamam the spread would be washed and dried, then folded away in the bundle until the next time.

The ayna: a mirror its frame and handle often made of wood, but sometimes of silver or brass; the mirror was a wital item in the bundle.

A bowl of henna, called kına and considered to strengthen the hair besides adding rich beautiful color.

A very small container, made of tinned copper, and used to mash up an eyebrow darkener known as rastık, especially popular with those of fair and auburn hair.

Another box: this one for sürme, a kind of kohl for the eyelids.

A bottle of rose water: called gülsuyu. This bottle was kept in a wooden case, and inevitably found in the Hamam bundle; no other perfume was considered proper for the newly washed body.

While some of these are no longer used, they are widely available for purchase and are guaranteed to add pleasure to the Hamam experience.

Many Hamams were built during the Ottoman era, including forty by architect Sinan himself. Externally, they have a distinctive domed profile, with bottle glass directing beams of light inwards. Hamam traditionally consist of three areas:

Soyunmalık or Camekan, a court surrounded by small individual changing rooms; Soğukluk where visitors adjust to the heat; Sıcaklık or Hararet the hot and steamy marble bath where scrubbing and massage (somewhat resembling a one-sided wresting match) are performed.

A meter high marble platform Göbektaşı adorns the center of Hararet room. It is located just above the wood or coal furnaces heating the Hamam. The bather lies here for a vigorous massage, Kese that involves the removal with a coarse cloth mitten of a lifetime worth of dead skin. On leaving the Hamam, you may recover with a cold drink in the Camekan which nowadays serves as a café as well, or simply stretch out on the reclining couch in your private changing cubicle.

Despite the increase in household baths and showers, Hamams still thrive and many historical ones are still surviving...

Enjoy the Hamam
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