Lifestyle & Travel
Dec 31, 2015
The Rituals That Never Change
Whether you are a wife of a Sultan, or a humble person, your body loves to be treated with care and tenderness. Like it was 500 years ago, people feel the same now. There is good news for you: in the 21st century you can live the same experiences the Sultans used to live half a millenium ago.
The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam in Istanbul was built at the request of Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana), the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century (1556-1557 AD). It was designed and built by Mimar Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect.
The hamam was operational until 1910 when it closed for many years. The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam, one of the most beautiful monuments in Istanbul, was restored for the first time between the years 1957-1958 and was a carpet bazaar until 2007. Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Bath which was commissioned in 2008 with build-operate-transfer model was restored according to its original features with a huge investment. Restoration project of Hagia Sophia Hurrem Sultan Bath was carried out by Kocaeli University Faculty of Architecture, which is an expert in historical building restoration. No element of the original bath architecture was sacrificed during the restoration process carried out with efforts of interdisciplinary teams consisting of academics and professionals of their own fields, that lasted for months. For this work some materials and technological systems were used for the first time in Turkey.
Bath is showing differences from classical period Ottoman bath architecture with its double bath shape and 75m. length. In Turkish bath where male coldness, warmness, hotness sections and female hotness, warmness and coldness sections follow each other; all domes are covered with lead. The sections for men and women are constructed on the same axis as mirror images of each other.
You first enter what is known as the cold room. Within the cold room section are a VIP room, changing rooms with security lockers, a hairdresser, reception area, massage rooms, vitamin bar, a boutique and the resting area. This is where you will change into the pestamal (silk wrap) before your bath. After your bath experience this is also the place to relax, drink a replenishing sherbet (fruit drink) and gaze up at the huge dome basking in the history of the sultans.
After perspiring in the hot room, this is the place where the attendants will scrub your skin. You can also see part of the old heating system that was originally used in the hamam.
Hagia Sophia Hurrem Sultan Bath suggests you a great assortment of unforgettable body and mind experiences, among which are not only fantastic bath and massage packages, but also a list of rituals, such as bride's or groom's party.
The large marble massage platform in the hot room lies under the hamam's dome and is surrounded by both open and private alcoves (halvet). The temperature in the hot room is around 42 – 47 degrees while the private alcoves may reach 60 degrees. In the hot section there are basins to fill with cooling water and gold-plated bowls for pouring it over your body. This room is where you first go so the heat prepares your skin for the scrub. It is also where the bubble wash and massage service is provided after your scrub.
Since ever the hamam was a very important part of Turkish culture. These baths were not just for practical purposes, but also for the art of pleasure and entertainment. Besides, the main reason why the baths took such an important place in Ottoman culture was for religious purposes. According to the Koran, cleanliness is not just an important but a fundamental part of the faith. These marble temples also provided a meeting place for locals to partake in conversation along with bathing and massage. The time spent in the hamam was not just an hour but took up most of the day.
For the past one thousand years, the hamam tradition has been important for cleanliness and health but also for entertainment and social gatherings. These traditions have been reinterpreted for the modern culture in the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam.