Enjoy a Turkish bath in the Hammam.


One of the tourist attractions of Turkey is its famous baths. Since the 18th century, Hammam has been one of the favorite places to recreate erotic stories for Western writers and painters. The reality is quite different. Since the Middle Ages the Hamam have been a very important place for the cultural and daily life of Ottoman society. They were not only toilet centers but also centers of dialogue where they talked about daily life, philosophy or decided political decisions.

“La Grande Piscine a Bursa”. Jean-Léon Gérôme 1885. This picture shows how western artists imagined the Ottoman hammam.

The Hammam are the buildings in which these were and whose structure responded to the different rooms that the bathroom process requires. They are never mixed. In some cases, if the hammam is large it houses areas for men and women but the majority are only for one of the two sexes. The traveler should be alert and not confuse “Bay” (man) and “Bayan” (woman).

Its origin is of Roman time but it was popularized during the average age in all the zones of Muslim culture. From Anatolia to Al Andalus. It should not be forgotten that daily grooming is a very important practice within the precepts of Islam. Unlike the Christian Europe of the Middle Ages saw the cleansing of the body as a sin and a door to illness. For it was believed that the corporal dirt served as shield against microbes.

Hammam is not as popular today as it was centuries ago. Almost everyone has a shower at home and hot water. For this reason many of these historic buildings are in ruins or in restoration processes. Some have ceased to be bathrooms and today are cultural centers, such as Bursa Kültür Merkezleri – Ördekli Kültür Merkezi.

Bursa Kültür Merkezleri – Ördekli Kültür Merkezi. The old bathroom is now a conference room.

But fortunately there are Hammam who continue to be baths. For me the best are those of Bursa. These are much cheaper than those in Istanbul and less touristy. This makes it easier to imagine what the place was like during the Ottoman Empire. The sounds of water, water vapor, star domes, marble fountains … and conversations quietly. There are even people who pray.

An old Hamman in the middle of the modern city.

Its price is not expensive for the European. And I think that for the traveler it is a place that should go obligatorily. Massages are part of the Hamam tradition and there is no better solution for back pain and fatigue for the traveler.

Not all Haman’s are of good quality and offer good services. The price also changes. It is advisable to ask a local which is the best place in relation to quality.

Foam massage in the hammam.

One highly recommended in Bursa is Tarihi Demirtaş Paşa Hamamı. (for men). It is a building of the fifteenth century, before the conquest of Constantinople. Time when Bursa was capital of the Empire. The building maintains the original essence. It has sauna, and pools of hot and cold water. After the massage you can go to the lobby to relax relaxed on a sunbed taking a çay (tea) and see a famous Turkish soap opera on television.

You can spend as much time as you want. Its price  is more or less  10 euros.

See you next week.

Alejandro Pardo.