Ask a spa specialist about… Turkish hammam

Explore the wonders of hammam treatments at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, with Spa Treatment Manager, Yavuz Şimşek


BY REBECCA HOWARD DENNIS
Rebecca Howard Dennis writes on spas and beauty trends for The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Brummell magazine and Grazia.

 

 

With a pampering pedigree that stretches back to the Ottoman Empire, the hammam (traditional Turkish bath) still occupies a privileged position in both Middle Eastern culture and today’s fickle and ever-changing beauty industry. For a business built on seasonal trends and the latest wonder ingredients, it is testament to the efficacy of the hammam’s time-honoured traditions that this holistic therapy has not only stood the test of time, but continues to chime therapeutically with the – very modern – stresses and strains of 21st-century life.

What’s the history of the hammam and is it still an important part of Turkish culture?

“The public bath, or hammam, has always been a vital social institution in Middle Eastern countries and has its origins in the Roman thermae spa baths of the Mediterranean. Today, bathing is mainly considered a private activity, but in the centuries before modern plumbing, the hammam offered a hub for the community as well as playing a very practical role in terms of health and cleanliness. In modern Turkish culture, Fridays are a popular day to visit the hammam, as Islam considers this the most important and holy day of the week with Muslims visiting the baths to purify themselves before going to prayer.”

Does a hammam follow a specific or set ritual? What can you expect from the experience?

“Yes, there is a set running order to a hammam. A traditional Turkish bath treatment begins by wearing a peştemal [pronounced ‘pesh-temal’], a traditional silk or cotton towel, wrapped around your hips and midriff. Next you enter the treatment room, which is heated to 65°C, and has a large marble slab, known as the navel stone, at its centre. Lying on the slab, the therapy starts with an invigorating body scrub using a traditional kese – a loofah-textured, exfoliating glove. Once your skin has been deeply purified and cleansed with water, the therapist performs a full body massage, using a bag containing soap to create a silky, soft foam. Post massage, you are invited to relax in the soğukluk, a cooler room (kept no lower than 20°C), to enjoy traditional fruit juice, sweet tea or aryan (a salted yoghurt drink).”

What are the benefits of having a hammam? Is it a spa therapy that everyone can enjoy?

“In Turkey, we call hammam the ‘silent doctor’, because of its wellbeing benefits that treat the body holistically, making it the perfect way to relax, kickstart or continue a wellness journey. In my opinion, a hammam is the ultimate one-stop-shop to refresh body, mind and soul. Physically it works on many levels, sloughing away dead skin cells as well as boosting the body’s circulatory system and natural detoxification processes to leave skin feeling softer and looking more even-toned. It also helps to ease muscle tension. Emotionally, it reduces stress and anxiety to promote a sense of deep relaxation that many find results in deeper, more restful sleep, post-treatment. A hammam is not suitable during pregnancy, for children younger than 12 or for anyone suffering from cardio vascular problems, skin conditions or scar tissue.”

Are there a range of hammam treatments to choose from at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum?

 “The hammam at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum boasts a beautiful domed ceiling, authentic tiles and the classic marble treatment slab, where you can choose from three different hammam experiences: the Traditional Hammam; the Mediterranean Journey, which features Turkish traditions and practices used in conjunction with local, natural ingredients such as olive oil from the Aegean; and finally, the Oriental Hammam. This incorporates a green clay body wrap and Eastern meridian line massage techniques.”

Why do you think the hammam continues to be popular in today’s world and how can guests maximise and extend its holistic benefits?

“In my opinion, everyone should experience a hammam at least once in their lifetime. It may be a thousand-year-old detoxifying and rejuvenating ritual, but it remains relevant today thanks to its innate ability to unwind stressed-out souls and revitalise world-weary bodies. Post treatment, I recommend everyone takes the time to sit and reflect in our spa garden. It’s the perfect, tranquil spot to consolidate the recalibrating benefits of the hammam.”

Yavuz Şimşek is a Spa Treatment Manager specialising in hammam treatments at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, where he has worked since its opening in 2014, ensuring that guests can experience Turkey’s centuries-old tradition of water therapy in an authentic setting.

Book your stay at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum…

Looking out over the Aegean Sea, Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum is a luxury five-star hotel with two private beaches, excellent leisure facilities, gourmet restaurants and a world-class spa.