In Western Europe, the "Turkish bath" as a method of cleansing and relaxation became popular during the Victorian era. The process involved in taking a Turkish bath is similar to that of a sauna, but is more closely related to ancient Greek and ancient Roman bathing practices.
The Turkish bath starts with a relaxation in a room (known as the warm room) that is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air, allowing the bather to perspire freely. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room (known as the hot room) before they wash in cold water. After performing a full body wash and receiving a massage, bathers finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation.
The difference between the Islamic hammam and the Victorian Turkish bath is the air. The hot air in the Victorian Turkish bath is dry; in the Islamic hammam the air is often steamy. The bather in a Victorian Turkish bath will often take a plunge in a cold pool after the hot rooms; the Islamic hammam usually does not have a pool unless the water is flowing from a spring. In the Islamic hammams the bathers splash themselves with cold water.
The Victorian Turkish bath was described by Dr Johann Ludwig Wilhelm Thudichum in a lecture to the Royal Society of Medicine given in 1861, one year after the first Victorian Turkish bath was opened in London:
'The discovery that was lost and has been found again, is this, in the fewest possible words: The application of hot air to the human body. It is not wet air, nor moist air, nor vapoury air; it is not vapour in any shape or form whatever. It is an immersion of the whole body in hot common air.'
The hamam combines the functionality and the structural elements of its predecessors in Anatolia, the Roman thermae and baths, with the Central Asian Turkic tradition of steam bathing, ritual cleansing and respect of water  It is also known that Arabs built versions of the Greek-Roman baths that they encountered following their conquest of Alexandria in 641. From the 10th century, Turkish kingdoms began to proliferate in Anatolia in lands conquered from the Byzantine Greeks, leading eventually to the complete conquest of the remnants of the old empire in the 15th century. During those centuries of war, peace, alliance, trade, and competition, the two cultures – Hellenized Roman and Anatolian Turkish – had tremendous influence on each other. Moving beyond the re-use of the Greek baths (for example Byzantine Bath (Thessaloniki)) in their new lands, new bath were constructed as annex buildings of mosques, the complexes of which were community center as well as houses of worship.
The Ottomans in particular became prolific patrons of baths, building a number of ambitious structures, particular in Constantinople after it became their capital in 1453. The monumental baths designed by Renaissance Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan (1489–1588), such as the stand alone 1584 "Çemberlitaş Hamamı", the bath in the complex of the 1558 Süleymaniye Mosque (both in Constantinople) and the bath of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne were particularly influential.
Like its Roman predecessor a typical hamam consists of three basic, interconnected rooms: the sıcaklık (or hararet -caldarium), which is the hot room; the warm room (tepidarium), which is the intermediate room; and the soğukluk, which is the cool room (frigidarium). The main evolutionary change between Roman baths and Turkish baths concerns the cool room. The Roman frigidarium included a quite cold water pool in which patrons would immerse themselves before moving on to the warmer rooms. Medieval Muslim customs put a high priority on cleanliness, but favored running water to immersion baths, so the cold water pool was dispensed with. Also the sequence of rooms was revised so that people generally used the cool room after the warmer rooms and massages, rather than before. Whereas the Romans used it as preparation, the Ottomans used it for refreshment (drinks and snacks are served) and recovery.
The sıcaklık usually has a large dome decorated with small glass windows that create a half-light; it also contains a large marble stone called göbek taşı (tummy stone) at the center that the customers lie on, and niches with fountains in the corners. This room is for soaking up steam and getting scrub massages. The warm room is used for washing up with soap and water and the soğukluk is to relax, dress up, have a refreshing drink, sometimes tea, and, where available, a nap in a private cubicle after the massage. A few of the hamams in Istanbul also contain mikvehs, ritual cleansing baths for Jewish women.
The hamam, like its precursors, is not exclusive to men. Hamam complexes usually contain separate quarters for men and women; or males and females are admitted at separate times. Because they were social centers as well as baths, hamams became numerous during the time of the Ottoman Empire and were built in almost every Ottoman city. On many occasions they became places of entertainment (e.g. dancing and food, especially in the women's quarters) and ceremonies, such as before weddings, high-holidays, celebrating newborns, beauty trips.
Several accessories from Roman times survive in modern hamams, such as the peştemal (a special cloth of silk and/or cotton to cover the body, like a pareo), nalın (wooden clogs that prevent slipping on the wet floor, or mother-of-pearl), kese (a rough mitt for massage), and sometimes jewel boxes, gilded soap boxes, mirrors, henna bowls, and perfume bottles. Traditionally, the masseurs in the baths, tellak in Turkish, were young men who helped wash clients by soaping and scrubbing their bodies.
After the defeat and dismemberment of the Ottoman army in the early 20th century, the role of tellak boys was filled by adult attendants.
In different countries
Dating back to the Frankish occupation and located in the heart of Nicosia in Cyprus is Hamam Omerye. The site's history dates back to the 14th century, when it stood as an Augustinian church of St. Mary. Stone-built, with small domes, it is historically placed at around the time of Frankish and Venetian occupation, approximately the same time that the city acquired its Venetian walls. In 1571 the Ottoman Turkish ruler Mustafa Bilal Geldosh Pasha converted the church into a mosque, believing that this was where the Khalifa Umar rested during his visit to Lefkosia.
Most of the original building was destroyed by Ottoman artillery, although the door of the main entrance still belongs to the 14th century Lusignan building, whilst remains of a later Renaissance phase can be seen at the north-eastern side of the monument. In 2003 the [EU] funded a bi-communal UNDP/UNOPS project, "Partnership for the Future", in collaboration with Nicosia Municipality and Nicosia Master Plan.
Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire, and the hamams of Cairo and other major cities like Alexandria are evidence of this unique Ottoman legacy. There used to be as many as 300 hamams in Cairo. As of 2012[update], only seven remain. Two of them, located in the El Hussien and Khan el-Khalili districts are closed.
Budapest, the City of Spas has four working Turkish Baths, all from the 16th century and open to the public: Rudas Baths, Király Baths, Rácz Thermal Bath, and Császár Spa Bath (reopened to the public since December 2012).
An old legendary story says that Damascus once had 365 hammams or ‘Turkish baths’: one for each day of the year. Originally part of an ancient Roman tradition, hammams were absorbed by Islam to such an extent that many became almost annexes to nearby mosques. For centuries, hammams were an integral part of community life, with some 50 hammams surviving in Damascus until the 1950s. As of 2012[update], however, with the growth of modernization programmes and home bathrooms, fewer than 20 Damascene working hamams had survived.
According to many historians, the northern city of Aleppo was home to 177 hammams during the medieval period, until the Mongol invasion when many vital structures in the city were destroyed. Until 1970, around 40 hammams were still operating in the city. Nowadays, roughly 18 hammams are operating in the Ancient part of the city.
- Hammam al-Sultan built in 1211 by Az-Zahir Ghazi.
- Hammam al-Nahhaseen built during the 12th century near Khan al-Nahhaseen.
- Hammam al-Bayadah of the Mamluk era built in 1450.
- Hammam Yalbugha built in 1491 by the Emir of Aleppo Saif ad-Din Yalbugha al-Naseri.
- Hammam al-Jawhary, hammam Azdemir, hammam Bahram Pasha, hammam Bab al-Ahmar, etc.
Delhi, Hyderabad and Bhopal have multiple working Turkish Baths, which were started during the Mughal period in the early 16th century. In India, Unilever's best-known brand of family bathing Soap is Hamam, a word whose meaning many Indians do not know.
Introduction to Western Europe
Turkish baths were introduced to Britain by David Urquhart, diplomat and sometime Member of Parliament for Stafford, who for political and personal reasons wished to popularize Turkish culture. In 1850 he wrote The Pillars of Hercules, a book about his travels in 1848 through Spain and Morocco. He described the system of dry hot-air baths used there and in the Ottoman Empire which had changed little since Roman times. In 1856 Richard Barter read Urquhart's book and worked with him to construct a bath. They opened the first modern Turkish bath at St Ann's Hydropathic Establishment near Blarney, County Cork, Ireland. The following year, the first public bath of its type to be built in mainland Britain since Roman times was opened in Manchester, and the idea spread rapidly. It reached London in July 1860, when Roger Evans, a member of one of Urquhart's Foreign Affairs Committees, opened a Turkish bath at 5 Bell Street, near Marble Arch.
During the following 150 years, over 600 Turkish baths opened in Britain, including those built by municipal authorities as part of swimming pool complexes, taking advantage of the fact that water-heating boilers were already on site.
As of September 2013[update] there were just twelve Victorian-style Turkish baths remaining open in Britain, but hot-air baths still thrive in the form of the Russian steam baths banya (sauna) and the Finnish sauna.
Similar baths opened in other parts of the British Empire. Dr. John Le Gay Brereton, who had given medical advice to bathers in a Foreign Affairs Committee-owned Turkish bath in Bradford, travelled to Sydney, Australia, and opened a Turkish bath there on Spring Street in 1859, even before such baths had reached London. Canada had one by 1869, and the first in New Zealand was opened in 1874.
Urquhart's influence was also felt outside the Empire when in 1861, Dr Charles H Shepard opened the first Turkish baths in the United States at 63 Columbia Street, Brooklyn Heights, New York, most probably on 3 October 1863. Before this, the United States, like many other places, had several Russian vapor baths, one of the first being that opened in 1861 by M.Hlasko at his Natatorium at 219 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia.
Baigneuses, oil on canvas, Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)
Notes and references
- Cosgrove, J. J. (1913, reprinted 2001), Design of the Turkish Bath, Books for Business, ISBN 978-0-89499-078-6
- "Hammam" by Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman, Jahan-i Tibb, Volume 7, Number 1, July–September 2005, Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine, Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, pages 12–17.
- "The Turkish bath" by J L W Thudichum, Transactions of the Royal Medical Society, 1861, page 40.
- The Guide of Turkish Baths.
- Hamams in Islamic tradition (cyberbohemia.com)
- (Yilmazkaya & Deniz 2005) discusses occasional licentious activity
- Hammaming in the Sham: A Journey through the Turkish Baths of Damascus, Aleppo and Beyond, Richard Boggs, Garnet Publishing Ltd.
- Alepo hammams
- Carter, Terry; Dunston, Lara; Humphreys, Andrew (2004). Syria & Lebanon. Lonely Planet. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-86450-333-3.
- "Turkish bath centre defunct at Nizamia general hospital". siasat.com. 11 January 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- "Where are those Turkish baths?". The Times of India. 11 June 2004. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- "Centre keen on hammam". The Times of India. 27 November 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- "Hyderabad Attractions". The New York Times. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- Syed Zillur Rahman, Hammam – Past and Present, Newsletter of Ibn Sina Academy 2012, Volume 12 No 1: 10-16
- Shifrin, Malcolm (3 October 2008), "St Ann's Hydropathic Establishment, Blarney, Co. Cork", Victorian Turkish Baths: Their origin, development, and gradual decline, retrieved 12 December 2009
- "Victorian-style Turkish baths still open in the UK". Victorianturkishbath.org. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
- The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 3 October 1863
- To Philadelphians on behalf of the Natatorium & Physical Institute. p. 11. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
- Allsop, Robert Owen (1890), The Turkish bath: its design and construction, Spon
- Cosgrove, J. J. (1913, reprinted 2001), Design of the Turkish Bath, Books for Business, ISBN 978-0-89499-078-6
- Gazali, Münif Fehim (2001), Book of Shehzade, Dönence, ISBN 978-975-7054-17-7
- Meunier, Pascal; Telmissany, May; Gandossi, Eve (2009), The last Hammams of Cairo: A Disappearing Bathhouse Culture, American University in Cairo, ISBN 978-977-416-243-5
- Toledano, Ehud R. (2003), State and Society in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Egypt, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-53453-6
- Yilmazkaya, Orhan; Deniz, Ogurlu (2005), Turkish Baths: A Light Onto a Tradition and Culture (2 ed.), Çitlembik, ISBN 978-975-6663-80-6
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