I am sometimes told by customers that they want to purchase a “Hammam”, but very often their expectations and indeed their very idea of what a Hammam actually is, is uncertain.
I thought that being the “expert” I would write a few words to describe what a Hammam is, but the more I researched it, the more I found myself moving away from the clearest definition.
If you seek advice from the fountain of all knowledge (not me but Wikepedia) it tells you that Hammam is a “Turkish Bath”, being the Islamic equivalent of the Roman Bath, Steam bath, Sauna or Russian Bath…..confused yet ?
In fact to my knowledge, the “Turkish Bath” is more of a process than an individual experience, being formed from a series of interconnecting dry rooms, each room being set at differing temperatures becoming hotter and hotter, usually including a steam room, a great example being at my home town of Harrogate as seen below.
In the Turkish Bath the bather starts in the “Warm Room” where they can gradually get used to the temperature, before moving on to the hotter room or rooms, before taking a cold plunge or shower.
The traditional Turkish Bath may also offer the option of a massage/scrub treatment, often using the traditional black soap, or Savon Noir. This application will add to the exfoliating benefits of the Hammam, which in itself helps to remove impurities and toxins from the skin.
Many potential “Hammam” owners/operators have in mind a steam room when they ask for a Hammam to be installed.
Some want a steam room with high benches or “slabs” on which they can offer massage for the clients, however what must be considered is the practicalities, as the logistics of finding therapists willing to provide massage/scrub treatments in temperatures around 40/45oC and high humidity are rare !
The best option if a Hammam experience is to be offered is to provide the thermal experience, be it sauna, steam room etc with the facility to cool down, either from a cold plunge or shower, (perhaps an ice room or ice cave, or even a snow room but that is moving away from the traditional aspects).
A suitable “Hammam” massage table may then be used to offer the scrub treatments, this can be an individual table or a slab, often marble topped and sometimes heated.
I feel there is a lot more research to be done to get to the true definition of the Hammam, and I will keep you posted as to my findings, and do feel free to contact me if you have your own views on Hammam.