A special museum is preserving the tradition and culture of hammams in southeastern Turkey so they can be passed on to future generations. The Gaziantep Bathhouses Museum sustains the customs while explaining to the public the layout of traditional Turkish baths with some 509 artifacts.
The museum's building, once an Ottoman bathhouse itself, was requisitioned by Grand Vizier Lala Mustafa Pasha in 1571.
According to museum guide and Sumerologist Tuğçe Yetkin, the hammam is comprised of three sections: the cool room, tepidity room and hot room. "The cool room is for resting and eating while the tepidity room is for adjusting to the heat after which the person proceeds into the hot room," she told Ihlas News Agency (IHA). “The rooms are arranged in this way as there are no thermal waters. The waters are boiled with fire in a furnace and passed to the bathhouse through clay pipes.”
Yetkin said that traditionally, hammams were a distinct location for significant events. "In the bathhouses, special occasions that promoted getting together, getting clean and having fun as part of the culture were held. Women prepared for these occasions days in advance. For example, they made içli köftes (stuffed meatballs) and dolmas (stuffed vegetables) to eat in the cold room," she said.
Yetkin explained another traditional event relating to birth. “Then, there is the puerpera bath, which is done 40 days after a child is born. They bring the child and the mother to the bathhouse, and 40 cups of water are poured over the baby and the mother over a wolf skull. After that, sugar is poured over the body so that the baby grows to be a sweet kid and a mixture is prepared from 40 different spices for the mother. A spoonful of this mixture is offered to attendees and the rest is then applied to the body of the mother by being blended with honey. It is to help with any wounds the mother has, to heal her and this tradition continues to this day,” she stated.