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Turkish history Sultan Suleiman

On Being Pampered at the Bath of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul, Turkey

A rinse by Ayasofya HamamiIn the year 1556, the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ordered a royal bath to be constructed over the ruins of an earlier public bath that had been destroyed in 532 AD.

The new bath came to be called the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam because of its close proximity to the famous Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), the 6th century Byzantine cathedral/mosque that is now a world-renowned museum. We were invited to experience this celebrated bath, and this is the story.

Years of Service

The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam pleasured Sultans and their guests from 1556 until 1910 when the baths were abruptly closed.

An easy walk from the Blue MosqueThe building was repurposed on several occasions between 1910 and 2011 when it was finally restored to its original glory and prominence as an opulent Turkish bath. One of its more interesting functions after 1910 was as a place of confinement for inmates during times of “overflow” at the nearby Sultanahmet Prison.

The Bath as Hamam

The Turkish hamams are all natural baths that generally provide mind and body therapies similar to those offered in tony spas around the world. Ottoman-style all natural baths, like the Ayasofya Hamami, are as much in vogue today as they were in antiquity.

Entering the Hamam

The front entrance to the bath opens into a reception area. This is where the vitamin bar, rest area and boutique are located.

Entrance foyerSelect from a Wide Array of Services

After signing in, each customer is asked to select a bath program. There are many hamam packages to choose from and we opted for the Pir-i Pak or “Full Cleansing Program.” We chose the Pir-i Pak because it offered the standard services of a traditional Turkish bath. Here is what happens after you make your selection.

Separate Facilities

Men and women are separated and guided to their own private dressing rooms that are small, but tastefully furnished in exotic woods and well secured. The customers are left to disrobe and don the traditional silk and cotton bath wrap, called a “pestamal.” The pestamal is usually worn during the entire bath process; however, the choice is left to personal preference.

First Room

Dressed in our pestamals, we exited our dressing rooms and walked to the first of three rooms where the treatments are performed. This first chamber of lustrous white marble with tall ceilings has the appearance of an ancient Roman steam room. Guests sit on Marmara marble slabs next to alabaster sinks with hot and cold gold faucets. The purpose of the room is to acclimate the body to the heat and to begin the detoxification process. The temperature is about 100 degrees F.

Private dressing rooms bowl sink Ayasofya Hamami men massage Ayasofya Hamami gender massage Ayasofya Hamami
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