History of Wet Turkish Sauna
The wet Turkish sauna or Hammam is the Middle East alternative for the contemporary steam bath classified as wet saunas. The Turkish wet baths played a significant role in the cultures of Middle East people. It served as a place where social meetings and ritual cleansing took place. Special cultural elements such as architectural structures and institutions among other special things were attached to wet Turkish sauna. The Europeans learned about the Hammam from their contacts with Turkey hence the European name, Turkish Hamman. In the Western Europe, the wet Turkish sauna was a popular body cleansing and relaxation during the Victorian era. The process involved in Turkish Hammam is similar to modern sauna. However, it closely relates to the bathing practices among the ancient Romans.
Taking the Turkish bath involved relaxing in a warm room, which was heated by continuous flow of hot dry air to allow the bather to perspire freely. The bather would then move to a hotter room before splashing himself/herself with cold water. After a full body wash and message, the bather finally retired to the cooling-room for a relaxation moment. The wet saunas in Ottoman culture began as a cultural aspect that served as an annex to mosques. However, it was quickly developed in institutions, architectural structures, monuments and other complex structures. The finest example is the Cemberlitas Hammam, which was built in Istanbul in the year 1584.
A typical Hamman consisted of three basic rooms that were interconnected and similar to Roman sauna structures. These include the hot room known as sicaklik, warm room known as tepidarium and the cool room known as the sogukluk. The tepidarium was the room that intermediated between the hot room and the cool-room. The sicaklik had a large dome with small glass-decorated windows, which permitted partial light into the room. This room was meant for soaking up and messages. The warm room was used for soap and water washing, while the cool room was used for relaxation, dressing up and have refreshing drinks. This could be tea, and if possible, siesta in private cubes after message.
Pictured is Turkish bath House in London
Like the ancient Roman baths, the wet Turkish bath or Hamman was not exclusively for men. They were built into complexes that contained separate quarters for both men and women. The Hammams acted as social centers during the Ottoman Empire. During the time, there were many Hammams constructed in almost every city within the Ottoman Empire. They were social gatherings centers, which were populated on almost every occasion with cultural entertainment such as dancing. These included ceremonies such as newborn celebrations, high-holidays, beauty trips and weddings among others.
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