Here are some tips on how to enjoy them:
The tradition of steam and hot-water baths goes back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romanswere lovers of the baths. The Ottomans followed in their footsteps—and sometimes in the same historic bath houses.
In the Turkish version, the bath is panelled in creamy marble and heated from beneath. You can sit or lie on the marble and feel the heat penetrate, soften and relax your muscles, and open your pores for effective cleansing.
For washing, water is drawn from hot and cold taps (musluk) into the kurna, a large marble bowl, then dipped from the marble bowl using a small metal hamam tası (hamam bowl) and poured and splashed onto the body. Water is freely poured and splashed in the hamam, and runs to drains in the floor.
Sabun (soap) is applied as desired, and the skin rubbed vigorously with a kese, a coarse mitt or loofah used for exfoliation. A ponza topuk taşı (pumice stone) may be used to soften calloused areas.
In the Hotel Niles Suites, the private hamams are also equipped with ceiling-mounted “rainshowers” and hand-held “telephone” showerheads for use after scrubbing, or for a quick shower when there’s no time for the traditional hamam relaxation.
Thick napped cotton terrycloth Turkish towels were invented by the Turks for use after the bath, as was the bornoz, the wonderful thick terrycloth robe that keeps you cozy as you emerge from the bath. Both of these hamam essentials are provided to guests at the Hotel Niles Suites .
Safety in the Hamam
A hamam is all hard marble surfaces, and with soap, water and wet skin, it’s important to keep safety in mind.
You may find, to your surprise, that wet feet on wet marble are not very slippery, but wet feet on dry marble may be slippery. Wet feet on dry ceramic tilesare very slippery! Be careful when stepping away from the hamam.
The Hotel Niles provides a pair of new, comfy bathslippers for each guest. It’s a good idea to have your slippers ready, along with the paspas (bathmat), for when you’re finished in the bath.
The one true problem with the private hamams in the Hotel Niles suites is this: once you get used to yours, you’ll want one at home!
—by Tom Brosnahan