6 things I wish I knew before going to a Turkish Hammam

Five years ago, I first encountered the captivating concept of Turkish Hammam while working on launching my brand, Global Beauty Secrets. With its ability to effectively slough off dead skin cells, revitalise the skin, and cleanse it thoroughly through the magical touch of steam, Hammam became more than a mere ritual for me. It became a transformative journey, caring not only for the skin but also tending to the health of hair and scalp.

As the tale goes, the Turkish Hammam was designed with meticulous attention to detail, reflecting the grandeur and sophistication of the Ottoman Empire. Intricate marble, adorned with delicate patterns and motifs, graced the walls while soft, warm light danced upon the serene surroundings. The air was heavy with the scent of fragrant oils and the gentle melody of flowing water, creating an ambience that whispered secrets of serenity. Stepping into a hammam transports you to a realm of relaxation and rejuvenation. The serene walls and scented oils invite you to immerse in cleansing rituals enveloped by the healing power of heat therapy. 

I particularly love the communal atmosphere, which is like a sacred space to have meaningful conversations, offering respite from the demands of everyday lives and fostering emotional well-being. No wonder Hammam’s contribution to women’s mental health was significant across pages of history in regions like the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, and the Middle East. Paintings and sculptures from different eras portray women in the Hammam, their faces adorned with relaxed expressions and contented smiles. These artistic representations beautifully encapsulate the deep connection between the hammam experience and cultivating positive emotional well-being. 

My Journey 

In the serene confines of the Turkish Hammam, here are some of the remarkable spiritual encounters one can expect:

The hammam experience began with a series of warm steam rooms, carefully calibrated to induce relaxation and open the skin’s pores. These rooms, known as “sıcaklık,” were adorned with large domed ceilings, allowing the steam to gently swirl and envelope each visitor in a comforting embrace. As the steam worked its magic, the attendees would recline on heated marble slabs, known as “göbektaşı,” allowing the warmth to penetrate their bodies, easing tension and promoting a sense of well-being. It was during this time that the bath attendants, known as “tellak” or “natır,” skillfully exfoliated the skin using a special glove called “Kesse.” The Kesse, crafted from coarse fabric, removed the accumulated layers of dead skin, unveiling a renewed and radiant complexion.

1. Purification of the Mind

The gentle steam melted away the stresses and worries of my everyday life, allowing my thoughts to drift and find clarity. In this meditative state, I experienced a sense of peace and tranquillity.

6 things I wish I knew before going to a Turkish Hammam
Photo Credits: Unsplash

2. Mind-body alignment

The next character of the Turkish hammam ritual is “Rhassoul.” This magical clay, sourced from the depths of the earth, is brimming with minerals and revered for its purifying properties. The tellak would gently apply the Rhassoul clay to the body, face, and hair, allowing its potent essence to draw out impurities and rejuvenate the skin. It was a moment of profound indulgence as the body and soul connected with the earth’s healing energy.
As the clay or oils were applied to my skin, and I was nudged to engage in gentle self-massage, I felt a deeper connection to my skin. This heightened mind-body connection can foster a sense of unity and integration, enhancing your overall well-being.

6 things I wish I knew before going to a Turkish Hammam
Photo Credits: Unsplash

3. Release of energetic blockages

The atmosphere of the Hammam is imbued with serenity, encouraging introspection and a deep sense of relaxation. While the tellak skillfully massaged the body, releasing the tension, a sensory symphony of fragrant oils, such as rose, mint, jasmine, or lavender, wafted through the air, enveloping visitors in an aura of tranquillity.
The Hammam’s combination of steam, exfoliation, and natural ingredients can release energetic blockages within your body. As dead skin cells are sloughed away, and impurities are washed away, stagnant energy is believed to be cleared, allowing for a renewed flow of vitality. 
As I experienced this timeless practice, I felt a part of a lineage of individuals seeking solace and renewal in Hammam’s embrace. This connection to history can bring a profound sense of grounding and a reminder of the enduring nature of human rituals.

6 things I wish I knew before going to a Turkish Hammam
Photo Credits: Unsplash

4. Rebirth and Renewal

In many cultures, cleansing in a Hammam is seen as a metaphorical rebirth. As you shed layers of impurities and emerge with refreshed and rejuvenated skin, it is as if you are shedding your old self and stepping into a new chapter. This symbolic rebirth can ignite a sense of renewal, allowing you to release what no longer serves you and embrace new beginnings.

As the ritual neared its conclusion, I felt almost like emerging from the depths of the Turkish Hammam, my body cleansed, and my spirit uplifted. I was then wrapped in soft, plush towels, known as “Peshtemal,” symbolizing care and reverence. 

Photo Credits: Unsplash

5. Comfort and connection

Being cocooned in the soft but heavy towel gives a sense of safety and unparalleled comfort. Resting in a tranquil chamber, I sipped on aromatic teas and indulged in moments of reflection, basking in the afterglow of the hammam experience.

Photo Credits: Unsplash

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6. Trivia: Turkish Hammam is also a story of Female Friendship

Let’s travel back to ancient Rome in the 2nd century B.C., where the Thermae, grand public bathhouses, stood as bustling hubs of activity for both men and women. However, within these magnificent structures, a special space called balnea or balneae was reserved exclusively for women. It was within these secluded sections that a remarkable transformation occurred. Women gathered, shedding the weight of their daily responsibilities and embracing the soothing waters of the Turkish Hammam. Here, they found solace and a sense of community, engaging in heartfelt conversations, and forming deep connections that uplifted their spirits and nourished their souls.

As time unfolded, the Islamic Golden Age brought forth a renewed appreciation for Hammam’s sanctity in the Muslim world. Women flocked to these havens of tranquillity, where separate sections were thoughtfully designed to provide privacy and comfort. 

Photo Credits: Unsplash

Inspired by the beauty and significance of this profound ritual, I imagined the GBS Hammam box. 

  1. Hammam Towel or the Peshtemal: This lightweight and absorbent towel is made with the most premium quality of cotton.
  2. Hammam Kesse or a jute mitten: Crafted from the Ramie fabric, it aims to exfoliate your skin, sloughing away dead cells and impurities. Each gentle stroke invigorates your blood circulation, preventing body acne and ingrown hairs. 
  3. Turkish Rhassoul Mineral Mud: Enriched with antimicrobial Rosemary and Tea Tree oil, this clay is rich in minerals, including the powerful Silica and Magnesium. Apply this mineral mud to your skin and hair for strength, shine, and gentle exfoliation. 
  4. The Turkish Rose and Mint Shampoo: Rose oil, with its nourishing and moisturising properties, mingles with the refreshing touch of Menthol (Mint), providing a delicate cleansing experience without any product buildup.
  5. Turkish Rose and Mint Conditioner: Enriched with Rose oil, Menthol, Castor oil, Shea butter, Cocoa butter, and Allantoin, this rinse-off conditioner lends an enviable shine to your tresses, especially after the clay treatment. 
  6. Gulbahar or the Soy Wax Massage Candle: Crafted from non-toxic soy wax, it offers an eco-friendly alternative to traditional paraffin candles. With every soothing massage, the combination of rose oil and Vitamin E invigorates your skin and nurtures your soul, leaving you in a state of sublime tranquillity.
  7. Turkish Watermelon and Argan Oil Day Cream SPF 40++: This mindfully formulated cream aids in connective tissue repair, treats pigmentation, and provides intense hydration and UV protection—all in one. To encapsulate the spirit of authenticity and purity, I have chosen an IFRA certified, 100% natural fragrance. The colour that graces this cream is also derived from food-grade sources, a mere 0.025% that adds a touch of elegance.

In each of these products, you find the essence of the Hammam, reimagined and perfected in the most authentic way possible. With every step of this extraordinary journey walks the dedication and commitment of Global Beauty Secrets to curate rituals that help you embark on a transformative wellness journey.

Author

  • Aishwarya Sawarna-Nir

    Aishwarya Sawarna-Nir is the founder and CEO of Global Beauty Secrets, a skincare range inspired by global rituals and cultures. Beyond her entrepreneurial pursuits, she finds joy in writing poetry, embracing her creativity. Her mission statement is to act and do your karma without being overtly attached to the result. Follow her on https://www.instagram.com/aishwaryasawarnanir/

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