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Hammam, Turkish Bath



A hammam (Arabic: حمّام‎, romanized: ḥammām, Turkish: hamam) is a type of steam bath or a place of public bathing associated with the Islamic world. It is a prominent feature in the culture of the Muslim world and was inherited from the model of the Roman thermae. Muslim bathhouses or hammams are historically found across the Middle East, North Africa, al-Andalus (Islamic Spain and Portugal), Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and in Southeastern Europe under Ottoman rule. A variation on the Muslim bathhouse, the Victorian Turkish bath, became popular as a therapy, a method of cleansing, and a place for relaxation during the Victorian era, rapidly spreading through the British Empire, the United States of America, and Western Europe.


In Islamic cultures the significance of the hammam was both religious and civic: it provided for the needs of ritual ablutions but also provided general hygiene and served other social functions in the community such as a gendered meeting place for men and for women. Archeological remains attest to the existence of bathhouses in the Islamic world as early as the Umayyad period (7th–8th centuries) and their importance has persisted up to modern times. Their architecture evolved from the layout of Roman and Greek bathhouses and featured a regular sequence of rooms: an undressing room, a cold room, a warm room, and a hot room. Heat is produced by furnaces which provided hot water and steam, while smoke and hot air was channeled through conduits under the floor. Visitors undress themselves, while retaining a loincloth, and proceed gradually into progressively hotter rooms, inducing perspiration. They are then usually washed by male or female staff (matching the gender of the visitor) with the use of soap and vigorous rubbing, before finishing off by washing themselves in warm water. Unlike Roman or Greek baths, bathers usually washed themselves with running water rather than by immersing themselves in standing water, although immersion in a pool was customary in the hammams of some regions such as Iran. While the general principles are the same in all hammams, some details of the process and of the architecture vary from region to region.




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