Hamams were an untegral part of Ottoman ,and therefore Turkish, culture for centuries.
Turkish Bath Kusadasi
Hamams are an intriguing subject,as their history reflects the history of the syntesis between the East and West.Through the history of the hamam you can trace the developmentsand changes in the arts,architecture,traditions over the centuries and on the other hand , track the rise and fall of nations and empires.
The tradition of the Turkish bath extends far back ,to a time before Turks had reached Anatolia.A careful look at the history of the hamams will reveal that like many other things in Turkey, there are not purely �Turkish� hamams.Either they are copied from early Greek and Roman examples,or else they are renovated Byzantine hamams.The traditions merged, and with the addition of the Moslem concern for cleanliness and its concomitant respect for the uses of water,there arose an entirely new concept,that of the Turkish Bath.
For the Turkish bath was much more than just a place to cleanse the skin.A whole social system revolved around the Turkish Baths.The Hamams became an institution around which every important milestone in individuals life centered.The 40-day-old baby was taken to the Hamam for his ritual first bath, the bride bathed on her wedding day complete with music and rejoicing,grooms too visited to the Hamam.There were the only places where Ottoman women could socialize in their restricted lives outside the closed doors of their houses.Even the most wealthy women,who had their own private hamams in their houses,dropped by the hamam in their district once a month.Older women would spot potential wives for their sons.Men discussed the latest news or talk business and politics.
Long ago a visit to Hamam was an elaborate affair,requring planning and the help of servants.There were about 15 to 20 articles needed for a traditional Turkish Bath.
The pestamal, a colourful ,checked cloth which is wrapped around the waist by men is still in use.Takunialar ,or wooden clogs,often inlaid or carved,have generally been replaced by plastic flip-flops.Soap,shampoo and other toilrtries were carried in hand crafted copper or even gold plated tarak kutusu,literally comb boxes,and a copper tas was used to pour water over the bather.The hamam set of women,s kit included three towels for drying, a mirror and a jewel box,a bowl of henna for her hair,an eyebrow darkener which was mashed with a small copper bowl and another box containing �surma� for lining her eyes and rose perfume in a bottle. While some of these are not longer used,they still available to buy and are guaranteed to add to the pleasure of the hamam experience.
Over time ,the washing aspect of going to hamams become secondary.People came to bring food,pets,and invite friends,musicians and belly dancers to hamam.Following a bath and a massage women,with only a linen cloth around them,fixed their eyebrows,dyed their hair,and sometimes hands and feet as well,with henna and waxed themselves.