Hamams, or Turkish baths, are a hot trend in spa services today, and yet they are as old as yoga and have been part of a cleansing ritual in many lands for thousands of years.
The origin of the word hamam, which is specifically spelled with only one “m” when referring to a Turkish facility, comes from the Arabic word for “heat.” With Turkey’s unique position as a country occupying both Asia and Europe, this special tradition spread far and wide, to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
The hamam concept
Having the good fortune to meet with Zeki Karagulle, MD, and his wife Mena during a recent trip to Turkey, I had the best possible insiders’ guide to the hamams of Istanbul. We met over a gastronomic array of traditional Turkish fare at lunch near the University of Istanbul, where both practice medicine. Here, I learned about the wellness benefits of hamams, and the history of Turkish baths.