Hürrem Sultan keeps bath customs alive
ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
The Hagia Sophia Hürrem Sultan Bath was restored at a cost of $20 million and opened in May to maintain traditional Turkish bath rituals that have attracted great interest from Turkish and foreign guests. AA photoThe centuries-old Hagia Sophia Hürrem Sultan Bath in the heart of Istanbul’s Sultanahmet neighborhood is again transmitting the cultural practices of the past following a multi-million-dollar renovation.
The hamam, which was rented by Haseki Tourism from the Foundations General Directorate under a build-operate-transfer model for 15 years, was restored in line with its original form at a cost of $20 million. It now offers bridal, groom, circumcision and other packages, keeping alive Turkey’s famous hamam culture. As part of the bridal bath option, the hamam offers Turkish fasıl music played with traditional instruments such as the oud, along with extras like fruit, sherbet, Turkish delight, meals with olive oil and desserts.
Speaking to Anatolia news agency, Hagia Sophia Hürrem Sultan Bath Operation Manager Hikmet Güvenli Bayındır said Haseki Tourism rented the hamam in 2007 and added that the renovation process took three-and-a-half years.
Old techniques modernized
Bayındır said the techniques of the past had been modernized in the restoration of the bath, which was built in 1556 by Architect Sinan on the orders of Süleyman the Magnificent.
“In the structures made by Architect Sinan, a ‘Horasan soil mixture’ that includes egg white was used. We used this mixture in the restoration, too. We found masters making this mixture. The estimates said the restoration would take 1.5 years, but we saw that the building was about to collapse, so the work lasted 3.5 years,” the manager said.
Bayındır said the bath opened on May 19. “The Hagia Sophia Hürrem Sultan bath has become a frequent place for tourists. They do not have a Turkish bath culture but they visit Turkish baths when they come to Turkey. As we began to get our name out, we also began to host Turkish guests. Ninety-nine percent of our guests were tourists when we first opened but now we mostly host Turkish guests on weekends and foreigners on weekdays.”
The hamam receives between 60 and 150 a day and more than 2,000 a month, Bayındır said, adding that they could host 80 people at one time in the bath.
Bayındır said businessmen, artists and football players were among the guests of the bath. “We offer Ottoman sherbets to our guests. We have written a story and play it to our guests. We have specially made silk loincloths for our guests so that they can feel like a sultan. Our bowls are gold plated. Our shampoos have the smell of redbud, which is the color and smell of Hürrem Sultan.”
‘Demand is high’
Bayındır said they had maintained rituals such as the bridal bath and groom bath and added that the demand for the former was very high.
She also said the TV series “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (Magnificent Century), featuring the period when Süleyman the Magnificent and Hürrem Sultan lived, had increased the interest in the bath.
The Hagia Hürrem Sultan Bath includes two baths and is 75-meters long. For the first time in the architecture of a Turkish hamam, the women’s and men’s baths have been placed on the same location.
Specially trained expert bath attendants, masseuses and masseurs work for the bath, which also has the Klasik A La Carte Restaurant and a café in its garden. It is open for service between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.