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Turkish Baths Essay

The phrase “Turkish bath” refers to a bathing facility that for many years was used by the Middle East people. Also referred to as “hammams”, Turkish baths were introduced by the ancient Middle East people. Although it was only known to the people of Middle East, the Europeans came to learn about the “Turkish bath” after coming into contact with the Ottomans in Asia. To the people of Middle East, Turkish baths play a very crucial role in their culture. The baths were considered as important places of ritual cleansing and social gatherings.

In addition, they were acknowledged for their unique architecture and have a cultural significance (Cosgrove, 2001). Although Turkish baths originated from the culture of the Middle East people, they were adopted in Western Europe. The Turkish baths became popular in Western Europe during the Victorian era. The Victorian era refers to the period between 1837 and 1901 during which Queen Victoria reigned in United Kingdom. The introduction of the culture of “Turkish baths” began in Europe during this time and the process of a Turkish bath during this time resembled that of a modern sauna.

In addition, some bathing practices of the ancient Romans were also integrated in the Western Europe newly introduced Turkish baths. “Turkish baths” form a very important element of the Central Asian Turkish tradition of respect of water, steam bathing, and ritual cleansing. During the Ottoman Empire, Turkish baths were built to serve as annexes to the mosques. The baths however evolved into independent institutions which later became monumental structural complexes. One very well known example is the 1584 built “Cemberlitas Hamami” which is found in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

In this paper, modern Turkish baths will be discussed. The architectural elements of the Turkish bath structures will be focused on and a comparison between the modern and traditional hamams will also be made. Discussion Turkish baths were introduced by the Ottoman people with the aim of having them serve as annexes in the mosques. However, with time, the baths evolved to become institutions. The Ottoman architect Sinan is acknowledged for his great contribution to the construction and supervision of the Ottoman Empire buildings, including the Turkish bath facilities.

Hammams during the Ottoman Empire were used by both men and women. They were used as social centers during the ancient times hence the Ottomans built them in almost all cities in the Ottoman Empire. The hammams were built in large numbers to serve the Ottoman people (Findley, 2004). Although the Ottoman Empire came to an end, the Turkish culture of baths spread to other parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, Turkish baths were first introduced in the 1830s. The then Member of Parliament for Stafford, David Urquhart made the Turkish culture popular in the United Kingdom by promoting the culture of Turkish baths.

The first modern Turkish bath to be built in the United Kingdom was located in St. Ann’s Hydropathic Establishment near Irelands’ Blarney. This was followed by the building of another Turkish bath in England’s’ Manchester. The idea of Turkish bath then spread so fast through north England with more baths being built. Many baths later came to be opened in various cities in the British Empire. This led to the introduction of modern Turkish baths. By 1869, a Turkish bath established in Canada while the first Turkish bath in New Zealand was built and opened in 1874.

The culture also spread to the United States. In 1863, the first Turkish bath in the US was opened. The bath was located in Brooklyn (63 Columbia street Brooklyn heights). Up to date, Turkish baths still remain common in Europe. The modern Turkish baths have been built by Arabs as a version of what resembles the Greek-Roman baths that they encountered after interacting with the Romans. Modern Turkish baths have been improved in function and in style as compared to the traditional baths. Turkish baths that were built in Turkey many years ago play a very vital role as a tourism attraction package.

Tourists who visit Turkey are encouraged to take a Turkish bath. In addition, structures that served as Turkish bath areas have become historical monuments that attract a large number of tourists. For instance, one of the finest monumental and structural complexes that served as Turkish bath is the Cemberlitas hamami. The complex was built in 1584 and is located in turkeys’ city of Istanbul. The architecture of a Turkish baths Although the modern and traditional Turkish baths have their differences in relation to architecture, the traditional bath architecture still remain well-known.

A typical Turkish bath comprises of three basic rooms which are interconnected to each other (Goodwin, 2003). One room is the hot room, which is also referred to as a caldarium or hararet. Another room is the intermediate room referred to as a tepidarium and the third room which is a cold room is referred to as a sogukluk. The sicaklik or hararet was made up of a large dome. The dome was discovered with small glass windows, and this allowed the creation of half light. The sicaclik also contained a large marble stone, whose function was to allow customers who come for a bath to lie down.

In addition, sicacliks had washing basins referred to as Kurna. The hot rooms in the hammams were octagonal in shape. In the middle of a hot room was gobektasi which was a large and heated platform made up of marbles. Around the rooms in the hammams were bathing cubicles. The hot room enabled the customers to soak up steam and to receive scrub massages. The architecture of Turkish baths was meant to add to the bathing experience of the customer hence the baths were lavishly enriched with mosaic designs. The designs formed a very crucial aspect of the architecture.

To allow the customers to enjoy the style and design of the structures they took bath in, hammams were furnished with decorative pools and fountains. The cool rooms in the Turkish baths were roofed with large domes which were supported by columns and arches. Some hammams were built with tiles covering the upper sections of the walls. The decorations in the baths were made using colorful marbles. Marble was greatly used in the construction of hammams, which resulted to ornamental as well as very rich architecture. To realize more complex composition of the Turkish baths, various types of vaults were put side by side.

Elaborate decorations were made on the inner surfaces of the vaults. Because the hammams were used by both men and women, some were built with separate sections for men and women. Sometimes, the hamams were used for bathing and for receiving traditional entertainment. The hammam complexes were used as places of social gatherings and this had the baths constructed with huge open spaces which could enable people to conduct dancing and other ceremonies such as weddings, high holidays and beauty trips. The warm room or the tepidarium was decorated with mosaics and rich marbles.

The room received its light from the rear, front, and on the sides through the windows. It acted as a hall where various niches or square recesses were dwindled. The warm room was constructed in a manner that allowed the bathers to have a pleasant feeling of radiant heat which came from the floor and the walls. The cool room (sogukluk) was designed to enable the bathers to relax and get dressed up. The bathers could also take tea or have a refreshing drink. If after a massage bathers wanted to take a nap, private cubicles would be available. Some hamams were built to allow ritual cleansing baths for the Jewish women.


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