Living in some Middle East Countries, going to the Hammam is a traditional and popular pastime for both men and women. I have lived in the Middle East (Gulf countries only) but I have never been to the Hammam, as Hammams are not a tradition here in the Gulf. I saw my first Hammam encounter was when I visited Syria, 3 years ago. Each time I visit other Middle East countries I have been wanting to try the Hammam experience and to see what is actually inside. But as we are normally on the go all of the time, I have never had the chance to try one. But this time in Istanbul, I made time to go and try a Turkish bath and what they do inside the Hammam.
So what is Hammam, and what’s the different between Hammam and Turkish Bath? Well, this is the explanation from Wikipedia, that they are actually the same, only that in some countries, they call it Hammam. It was an important part of the culture and life of the people from the Mediterranean region, from Morocco to Iran, from Egypt to Hungary. Now, what do they do in the Hammam? This is what I wanted to know.
I asked my hotel concierge to take me to a public Hammam, so that I could have the total Turkish Bath experience, but the hotel sent me to another place across the water in Tophane area, called Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami. They even told me that this place was also a historical building, OK, that gives me an interest… background history of the Hammam etc, etc.
It was already 2 pm when I approached the concierge to book my Hammam thing, and straight away they called the place and told me that the Hammam would accept me provided that I reached there by 2.30pm as at 4 o’clock the Hammam would turn to serve the men only.
At exactly 2.30pm the taxi driver dropped me off at a nearby alleyway, so I had to walk to the Hammam entrance by myself. It turned out that the entrance was not easy to find. The building was very obvious from the main road, but how come the entrance was so discreet?
Anyway, after asking for directions I eventually got there. As soon as I was inside, they asked me to do the standard procedure, i.e.: fill in a form that I was fit enough and that I had no special diseases or needed any special care, then I was provided with a cold drink and changed out of my clothes, then directly off to the ‘bathing’ room.
For somebody who comes from a country where massages are a lifestyle and something you take for granted which may well include a full body scrub massage. However, a Turkish Bath is totally a different experience. This is a bath not a massage, which is totally different when somebody bathes you in a public place, that means I shared the room with other ladies, and each of us had somebody to bathe us, but not inside a bath-tub, she just throws warm water all over my body, before relaxing on a slab of warm/hot marble slab for 20 to 30 minutes. After that she’d just bathed me with warmish to hot water and created lots of foam from the liquid soap they used (I am sure in the olden days they are not using liquid soap), then she scrubbed me all over, yet, there was no massage activity!
After finishing all these activities, then they let me relax on the common bed with my eyes closed with a warm little towel over my eyes. Unfortunately my relaxing period was cut short due to running out of time, as the boys wanted their turn….
Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami is an old building part of a mosque complex. Legend says that in that period, if one wanted to build a mosque, it had to be a complex consisting of a worship place (the mosque) a school (madrasah) and a Hammam, thus this Hammam was part of the Hammam which was constructed in 1580 to serve the levends (marine forces in the Ottoman navy). After 7 years of renovation it is now used as a private/commercial Hammam and regained it’s beauty and function as it used to be. It is now run by its 8th owner since it was built for the first time in the 16th century. For your information, a good maintenance of a Hammam place is a to renovate it every 10 years, to keep it clean and healthy, as it could be a nest of mold and germs. This Hammam was only recently re open again.
If you plan to go to Istanbul, I recommend you experience this Turkish Bath at Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami which is a good clean place to go to. More information about the place:Kemankes Mah. Hamam Sok. No:1 34425 Tophane Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkiye Reservation: Telephone: +90 (212) 393 80 10 Fax: +90 (212) 393 80 01 information: email@example.com
08:00 – 16:00 Women-only hours
16:30 – 23:30 Men-only hours
and I suggest to make a reservation prior going to Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami