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A 500-year-old Turkish bath, or hammam, serves people the traditional way

The ancient family hammam business. (Erin Timur/YJI)

ISTANBUL – Passed down from one generation to the next, the tradition of Turkish baths, hammam, continues until today. 

In Fatih, İstanbul, the Tarihi Vezneciler Hamamı (Historical Vezneciler Turkish Bath) has been used for quite some time.

Now owned by Cemal Turunç, this business has been in his family since 1481.

A 10-15 ton water tank, using water pressure to force water into the hammam’s pipes, is heated by a traditional log fire.

The wood burning fire that heats the hammam. (Mary Majerus-Collins/YJI)

Both the hammam’s main rooms – through fissures in the stone dome above the fire – and the water inside a large tank above are heated using the ‘authentic log fire’ Turunç explained, lighting a fire to demonstrate.  

Workers greet the customers as they begin their journey through the Turkish baths.

Men and women are separated. Women workers take care of women customers and men take care of the men.

The standard procedure includes a 20-30 minute sit in the steam room and sauna, followed by a  keseleme, or a scrubbing with aharsh loofah designed to remove dead skin cells from your body.

The last step involves a foam wash and shampoo to complete the treatment. 

Additionally, one can opt for an herbal oil massage, a face mask or a coffee peeling. 

A sink and a marble bench where customers lie down for spa treatment. (Erin Timur/YJI)

Workers are trained for the job “for between 15 days and a month,” Turunç said, depending on how skilled they are, as the process of removing the dead skin adeptly is “quite hard.”

Just like the business, this profession is also usually passed down from “generation to generation,” Turunç said, meaning a certain expertise can be expected from the workers.

The bath, having a long history of hosting Sultans and Ottoman statesmen, is now open to tourists and locals alike.

Erin Timur is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Cyprus. She reported and wrote this story, took photos and video.

Mary Majerus-Collins is an Associate Editor with Youth Journalism International from the United States. She contributed to the photos and video.

Author Erin Timur in Istanbul. (YJI photo)

See YJI’s entire Istanbul Adventure, including an account by two YJI students about what it was like to visit this hammam, by clicking on the logo below:

Parnian Shahsavary/YJI

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