Istanbul's public baths (Hamams) are very special buildings dating back to the Ottoman period. Apart from its natural aim, Hamams played an important role in the social life during the Ottoman era. Hamams were places of attraction during such ceremonies as weddings and were a traditional place of entertainment during holidays.
Women, neighbors and friends spent all day at the hamams filled with festivity which included singing and dancing. Although hamams have lost these social attraction status for many locals, they still are considered points of interest for visitors.
The main room consists of a raised marble platform which graces the center of the hamams and is known as the gobek tasi (navel stone).
The Gobek tasi (navel stone) is positioned above the wood or coal furnace which then heats the hamam. The surface of the göbek tasi can range from warm to hot depending on person's desired temperature.
The user lies on the Gobek tasi for a vigorous massage; they treatment is called keselenmek in Turkish. The masseur (Tellak in Turkish) who gives the bath uses a rough cloth glove (kese) to massage the guest providing a deep cleansing. This process cleanses the body of dead skin cells and revitalizes the body. After this treatment the tellak bathes the guest with warm water and soap.
Hamams have schedules for their male and female customers. Specifically, they can schedule certain days of the week for male and female customers.
Once the treatment is done, the Hamams provide you with towels (type of public bath towel which called pestemal in Turkish) and direct you to a private changing room. The room is furnished with either a reclining chair or comfortable bed. Soft drinks and CAY ('chay' , the Turkish tea) are always available for guests.
However, since the Ottoman time, Hamams have largely gone out of fashion. A reason for the decline in use is due in part to todays modern way of life. Meanwhile, there are a few historical Hamams that survived. If you are visiting Istanbul it is highly recommended that you partake in the unique HAMAM experience.