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Hammam- Traditional Baths

What are Hammams

Hammams are traditional bathing processes that stemmed from Roman bath houses in the past. You have an attendant who will take you through body exfoliation, wash, and massage. These Bath Houses are usually split by gender but you can find some that allow for couples or private rooms.

They look like steams rooms you see here in the U.S. but can be much much bigger. Usually made of marble, stone or slate tile. If you are in a communal type the rooms will be very big with marble islands in the middle of the room. Around the walls are seats or benches and showers or rinsing stations. Imagine a hot, humid, steamy room with the sound of running water.

As part of the process it is normal for you to clean yourself first then enter a dry sauna to get your skin ready. There are some differences among Hammams depending on what country you visit but usually you’ll get a scrub, a wash, and a massage. Hair and Face is/can be included.

Turkish Hammams

Some of the buildings the bath houses are in can be up to 2000 years old. From What I’ve seen on YouTube the Turkish Hammams are inspired by ancient cleansing rituals. The big steam rooms with the marble islands as I described before is what you will find here. Men have said that the process is actually pretty rough especially during the massage where slaps and very hard presses are exchanged to promote blood flow.

The Process

  1. Wash your self and change into underwear/robe
  2. Sit in Dry Sauna
  3. Go to Steam room and sit on Marble Island to start the cleansing
  4. Full body scrub/exfoliation/skin scraping by the attendant
  5. Go rinse yourself with cold water
  6. Go back to attendant to get washed with big foamy soap bubbles
  7. Massages and slaps skin during soap wash- promotes blood & lymph flow
  8. Rinse and the bath is over
  9. You can sit in the steam room or a relaxation room after the cleansing.
Communal Hammam in Turkey

Moroccan Hammams

From my observations the Moroccan version of the Roman Bath house was inspired by luxury. Most of these seem to be centered around private cleansings and the rooms look like a normal to smaller sized steam room with a water basin at the front of the room. You will lay down on the bench and the attendant will start your cleansing.

The Process

  1. wash yourself and change into underwear/robe
  2. Dry Sauna
  3. Steam Room
  4. Attendant will rinse you and start with
  5. Body Scrub
  6. Rinse
  7. Scrub Glove
  8. Rinse
  9. Mud/Clay Body Mask
  10. Rinse with water and scrub glove
  11. 30 min oil body massage
  12. Relax room until ready to leave
Shows a private Hammam in Morocco

Spa Relations in the USA

Most of the processes of the traditional Hammams you can find in spas here in the US. Body Scrubs & Mud Baths are common things to find here, but you may have to purchase as separate treatments. Locally, to North Carolina the have a Hammam experience in Asheville at the Asheville Salt Cave. My understanding is that you wash yourself in the steam room with all the materials provided to you.

I hope that if you ever get a chance to head to Turkey or Morocco you will check out a Hammam and receive knowledge of this historic tradition.

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