Turkish Delight – The Joys of Steam


Aarti Vallabh, Spa Manager of the Oyster Box, invites you to sample the delights of the hotel’s Hammam and gives an insight into the fascinating history of the steam bath.


25th January 2010

Bushmans Kloof
Aarti Valabh   Spa Manager

Aarti Valabh

The Hammam at The Oyster Box is a traditional Middle Eastern steam bath, a bit like a wet version of a sauna!  It’s a wonderful way to relax tense muscles and cleanse your body.  In centuries past the Hammam was known as “the silent doctor”- a place of cleansing and healing for both body and soul.

Words cannot really do the experience justice – you just have to go for it.  However, you might find some background information helpful, and inviting. The word Hammam, comes from the Arabic root ḥmm,  meaning “heat”.  Today the meaning varies, depending on the dialect of Arabic – it can mean “bathroom”, “hot springs” or “spa town”.  In Western Europe it is generally referred to as a “Turkish Bath”.

How do you take a Turkish Bath?  The process varies slightly from country to country (these traditions can still be experienced in many natural hot springs of Turkey, Tunisia, Spain, and Morocco), but the process generally goes something like this.  You will be given a cubicle in which you take off your clothes and wear the loin cloth provided by the staff. After changing you will be taken to the hot room of the Turkish bath in which you just relax and work up a sweat while your muscles loosen up. If you want, there will be a member of staff in the Turkish bath who will give you a Turkish massage. After the hot room you go to the warm room where you can either wash yourself or a staff member will scrub you down using Turkish soap and a special cloth that gets out all your old skin blocking your pores. Once this has finished you are taken to the cool room and given lots of towels to wrap yourself in. Here you can just relax and order some tea or any other drink that’s available. 

Who first came up with the idea?  The Romans built bath houses all over their empire and Turkey was no exception.  The Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans who later replaced the Romans continued the tradition (so the facilities and customs are both similar to that practiced in the Roman hot baths, or Thermae).  They built large baths in the most populated areas for the public to use (as most homes would not have private washing facilities).  Going to the baths became a popular part of the culture – people would meet friends, take a picnic and make it a pleasurable part of their weekly routine.  Despite the fact that modern Turkish homes have bathrooms the practice of visiting a public bath is still a central part of the culture – one can find Turkish Baths in almost every neighbourhood of all the big towns and cities in Turkey.

The Hammam at the Oyster Box is true to these ancient traditions.  Turkish stone mouldings and tiles create an authentic oriental atmosphere – it’s an oasis of calm and contemplative relaxation where the stresses and strains of everyday life are alleviated by a gentle, therapeutic massage treatment, based on ancient cleansing rituals.

For more information about the Hammam and the complete range of spa treatments available at The Oyster Box Spa, download the spa brochure or contact myself directly:

Spa Manager – Aartie Vallabh  Tel: +27 (0)31 514 5070 | Email aartiv@oysterbox.co.za