Prepare for a Moroccan and Turkish Bath Experience with the Essential Lingo
A lot of the popular appeal associated with Moroccan and Turkish bath rituals has to do with the distinctive treatment tools and the unique language that connects them to bathhouse traditions of far away lands and ancient history. The lingo used in hammam is hundreds of years old, just like the ritual practices of a hammam spa treatment.
Let’s go over the necessary items typically used in Moroccan and Turkish hammam treatments, for instance, everything in a hammam spa has a special name — from the towels to the soap. These unique names have never gone out of style, if anything they have become more and more ingrained in spa culture as the popularity of hammam grows.
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It is helpful to know what specific items and products are used during your hammam experience. For one, many hammam spa menus use traditional words to describe a treatment package, therefore an understanding of what a ‘peshtemal’ or a ‘kassa’ is will be valuable to know when you book a spa day.
Expressions To Expect: Turkish and Moroccan Hammam
Both Moroccan and Turkish hammam use specific tools and products in their respective body bathing rituals. Rituals are basically a service or ceremony that involves a series of actions. For instance, a traditional Turkish bath treatment follows a distinct sequence from start to finish. Here’s what to expect.
1st Part – All Turkish hammam treatments begin in the steam room, as humidity and heat open the pores and prepare the skin for a deep clean. To facilitate steam permeating the skin’s surface, spa guests are typically as nude as spa etiquette permits. Hammam spas will provide guests with a Turkish bath towel called a peshtemal. This traditional hammam towel is used to cover the body (wrapped over a swimsuit or underwear) while in the steam room and moving around the hammam. The thin fabric peshtemal is made from natural cotton fibres which makes it less likely to get soggy with humidity than a standard bath towel.
How much nudity is there during a hammam treatment? Find out in our Hammam Beginner’s Guide.
2nd Part – A spa attendant will douse your body with buckets of hot water to rinse away sweat, preparing the body for a scrub and bubble wash. In a Turkish bath you are scrubbed with a special mitt often made from natural fibres called a kese. Another scrub mitt that might be used is called a kassa, it is often made of durable polyester as a hammam scrub is vigorous and strong fibres are essential. Both kese and kassa get the job done! With the scrub part complete, the spa attendant will prepare a soap wash in a special cloth bag called a torba — this bag produces the foamy bubble wash that everyone loves known as köpük. Once squeaky clean you are ready for a full body massage.
Last Part – With the bathing and massage portion of the hammam complete you will be invited to a quiet relaxation lounge known more traditionally as a camegah. Bundled up in a cozy bathrobe you will enjoy a hot drink and fresh water in the camegah, and if you are in luck a delicious snack of baklava or Turkish delight. Most hammam spas provide light refreshments after a bathing experience.
The whole process may last from one to two hours depending on the level of service and number of additional treatments you have added to your hammam experience (i.e., a facial, specialized massage, aroma therapy). Add-on services during hammam are always an option.
A traditional Moroccan treatment is similar to a Turkish one with some differences. When it comes to body washing Moroccan treatments don’t use the light foamy soap or köpük. Let’s go over what to expect during the exfoliating and washing parts of a Moroccan spa bath.
Moroccan hammams typically use thick black soap called savon beldi. It is used during the body washing phase of the spa treatment. Once savon beldi is applied to the skin you only need to lay back and relax in a heated room until it is scrubbed off with a natural fibre kese mitt or kassa.
Another distinctive Moroccan spa treatment is the application of rhassoul clay all over the body. The natural mineral clay originates from Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Like savon beldi, rhassoul clay exfoliates and purifies the skin.
Knowing the special hammam spa vocabulary will better help you make an informed decision about the type of treatment you want to experience.
Need help deciding between a Moroccan or Turkish hammam spa experience?
We’ve sorted it out for you here!
Spa Glossary: Classic Hammam Lingo
This is your guide to common expressions used in a hammam spa treatment. They are useful to know, especially if you have a treatment abroad in Turkey or Morocco.
We already covered some keywords above in the context of actual hammam treatments — here they are again for a quick reference.
Peshtemal – the traditional bath towel of Turkish hammam steam rooms and spas. Peshtemal is ideal for the hot humid Turkish hammam because they are light, thin, absorbent and quick to dry. The best ones are made from 100% Turkish cotton as this type of cotton has longer fibres that make the towel stronger and more durable. If you have the opportunity to buy a traditional peshtemal you should! They are much easier to travel with than a regular old beach towel; you can use your peshtemal for so many things (i.e., shawl, picnic rug, beach cover-up…).
Kese – an exfoliating mitt used to scrub the skin head to toe during a hammam treatment. It is typically made from natural fibres like cotton or raw silk. Used with soap and hot water there is no better bath tool for removing dry skin and surplus oil from the body.
Kassa – similar to kese, the kassa mitt is used to exfoliate during a hammam treatment. It can be made of natural or man-made cellulose fabric. It does the same job as a kese. In many spas you can take home the mitt used in your treatment for personal use.
Köpük – a light soapy lather made from olive oil. When applied to the body during hammam it not only cleanses the skin but turns your treatment into a delightful sensory experience, as you are totally cocooned in soft bubbles.
Savon beldi – a thick black soap that originates from Morocco. Traditionally made from olive oil and softened black olive hulls, applied to the skin it exfoliates, purifies and moisturizes.
Rhassoul clay – in treatment it is used as a body mask. This clay is rich in magnesium, silica, potassium and calcium. As a topical treatment it exfoliates, purifies and nourishes the skin. Most often used in Moroccan hammam spa treatments.
Are you ready to book a hammam spa day!
Take a look at the Top 10 Hammam Spa Benefits here.
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