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Turkish Hamams

November 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
Cemberlitas hamam spa

Cemberlitas Hamam features a large dome in the hararet and natural light streaming through glass pinpoints called elephant eyes.

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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.

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Galatasaray Hamam

Galatasaray Hamam

Retail Tip: Turkish Hamams

According to Leigh Smith, director of The Spa at Trump at Trump Soho, New York, there are several unique retail possibilities that can be tied into offering a hammam experience at your facility. “Your spa can sell all of the elements used to provide the hammam service, such as castile soap, kese mitts, black soap, ghassoul clay, pestemals and Moroccan tea,” she explains. Other items, such as rosewater, argan oil, castile and olive soaps, and kese mitts, can be packaged together as hammam at-home kits that can bring this memorable treatment home with clients.

An American Take on Hamam

The Spa at Trump at Trump Soho in New York, opened this year to much acclaim with its wow factor and special Trump brand of luxury.

Featuring both women’s and men’s hammams, a dedicated hammam attaché takes the tradition to new levels of customer service. Using a highly personalized approach to assisting clients with their selections of robes, slippers and lockers, to concocting elixirs and customizing MP3 player music selections, the attaché serves as a guide during the hammam ritual. Unique in its approach, The Spa at Trump offers an array of hammam traditions from Turkey, Morocco, Persia and India. The 45-minute Turkish Hammam treatment, priced at $100, employs the traditional castile soap and kese mitt while the client lies on a heated belly stone. The special soap creates a proliferation of suds that can be an especially delightful experience for the first time hammam-goer. The 60-minute Moroccan Hammam treatment for $160 incorporates authentic Moroccan black soap made from olive oil and crushed olives to slough off dead skin, followed by a detoxifying warm ghassoul clay application.

According to Leigh Smith, director of The Spa at Trump at Trump Soho, if your spa is interested in offering a hammam ritual, consider hiring a hammam consultant for design and marketing issues. “Be authentic; these spaces are expensive to build and operate, so make sure that you balance the hammam with adequate revenue-generating space, such as massage rooms,” she suggests.

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