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Tour Guide Istanbul – Private tour Istanbul and the joy of hamam.
“Whoever goes to the bath on forty consecutive Wednesdays will succeed at anything they do”, an old adage claims. It was believed in the past that hamams not only meant pleasure to the bather, but also brought luck.
It is unthinkable for a visitor in Istanbul to miss out on such an experience as the Turkish bath. Along with its breathtaking scenery and historical significance, Istanbul is lucky to be graced with a large number of historical Turkish baths that date back to the Ottoman Empire.
Like many things in Turkish culture, hamam dates back to the Ottoman Empire. However, when you get a closer look at the history of Turkish baths, you would realize how much they resemble the ‘spreader of warmth’ (as hamam means in Arabic) of their predecessors, Byzantine Greeks and Romans.
Turkish baths combine the traditions of Roman and Byzantine
Turkish baths combine the traditions of Roman and Byzantine thermal baths with Central Asian steam bathing and cleansing rituals. With their arrival to Turkey, Muslims brought their own bathing customs. These, inevitably, mingled together and Turkish baths, or hamams were created. They had three basic functions: a place for social gathering; ritual cleansing connected to the Muslim faith (it required spiritual and physical cleansing); and an architectural witness to the sultan’s greatness, power and wealth. The function of private tour Istanbul is to bring joy and entertainment whether taking the visitors of Istanbul to hamam or on a sightseeing tour around the city with Tour Guide Istanbul.
Compare to the Greek baths
Compared to the Greek baths, the hamams of Islam are smaller and more modest. It is known that Arabs built versions of Greek-Roman baths which they encountered upon their conquest of Alexandria in 641. It was believed that the heat of the hamam enhanced the fertility. Soon these ‘sweat baths’ or ‘spreader of warmth’ became really important in religious aspect and hamams were built as annex to mosques. As the Islamic faith spread, so did hamams. They were one of the places in Islam that stayed open from early morning till late night and sometimes longer. From the 10th century Turkish kingdoms began to appear in Anatolia in lands which were already in the authority of Byzantine Greeks. That eventually led to the complete conquering of the old empire in the 15th century. The new Ottoman Empire showed its face to the world.
Certainly Istanbul, previous Constantinople, amazed its conquerors, especially Sultan Mehmed II and contrary to Islamic laws of the time for the eventually-captured cities to be sacked, Istanbul was mercied. The Sultan saved a big part of Istanbul for himself. Soon hamams attracted the Ottomans’ interest. They realized the good profit that could be made from them. Every district was endowed with a hamam, with its hot and cold baths, fountains, domed marble rooms. Turkish baths became an institution around which each individual’s life centred. It was intimately bound to everyday life. The main reason for that was religion. As mentioned above, according to the Qu’ran, washing is not only an important but an essential part of Islam. It required spiritual and physical cleansing.
Finding a partner as Tour Guide Istanbul, is not that easy as it was in hamam
Second basic function of hamam is getting socialized. Over time, the washing aspect of visiting the hamam became secondary. People started going to hamams to meet other people, to chat, to relax. Musicians and belly dancers were invited to hamams. Even the brides and the grooms as well would go there on their wedding day with music and rejoicing. There were separate hours established for men and women. Especially women (being confined indoors) looked forward to hamams.
Hamams were a means of finding a partner
If a husband were to deny his wife her visits to the hamam, she had grounds for divorce. Hamams were a means of finding a partner. Mothers found the opportunity to inspect prospective brides for their sons in the hamam. They had the chance to inspect the girls while they were bathing. Even young girls sometimes deliberately showed themselves off for this very reason. In fact, it was acceptable for a mother to kiss a possible daughter-in-law to learn whether or not she had bad breath.
Tour Guide Istanbul – You don’t need special outfit or anything for private tour Istanbul but special equipment was needed for a day in the hamam – about 15 to 20 articles. These were: ‘pestemeal’ – a towel made of a mix of silk and cotton, which was wrapped around the torso; wooden clogs, ‘nalins’ – to keep the bather’s feet clear of the wet floor; ‘tas’ or an ornamental metal bowl to pour water; soap case; ‘kese’ – a coarse cloth to scrape the dirt out of the pores; towels for drying; a mirror; a jewel box. The cosmetic kit included a bowl of henna (besides the warm colour it lends, henna was used to strengthen the hair and make it glisten), an eyebrow darkener, ‘attar’ – rose perfume in a bottle, kept in a wooden case.
The typical hamam has three rooms: caldarium, the sicaklik – the room with a steamy hot bath; tepidarium, the intermediate room – warm room for washing with soap and water and cool room, the sogukluk – for resting afterwards.
Masseur in the bath
Part of the traditional hamam is the so-called ‘tellak’, the masseur in the bath. Tellaks were young men who helped wash clients by soaping and scrubbing their bodies. Usually, these young boys were from non-Muslim subject nations of the Turkish Empire, as such work were seen as beneath the dignity of a Muslim.
The luscious Turkish hamam experience makes our daily bath or shower seem like such a trivial and insignificant affair in comparison.
In short, hamam means relaxing warmth, expert tellak, bather’s smile. Don’t miss to experience all these, to penetrate the stifling, steamy world where frail rays of light struggled to reach the stone floor.
Istanbul can offer you the delights of the Turkish bath in your daily tour and private tour Istanbul with Tour Guide Istanbul , being lucky to be graced with a large number of historical Turkish baths that date back to the Ottoman Empire.