25 November 2011 3:04 pm | | 1


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Turkish Bath or Hammam

Turkish baths or hammams are a remnant from the days when the Ottomans ruled Tunisia. Hammams are public steaming baths. They are found all over Tunisia and are an affordable way to relax. For only three and a half dinars, it is possible to experience a unique sense of relief for both the body and soul.

Visiting the Hammam is healthy. After one session in the hammam skin is both exfoliated and clean.

Hammams also serve as a social destination for many ceremonies before weddings, celebrating newborn babies, and beauty trips. The hours for men are usually in the morning and evening, while women go in the afternoon.

Most hammams in Tunisia embrace identical structural elements and decor. A typical Hammam is comprised of a set of large rooms usually decorated with marble surfaces. Upon entering the hammam, you will pass through a specious yard with two lady attendants (or males if it is men’s time). It is from one of these attendants that you will receive a key for a private locker where you keep your clothes and valuable. Afterwards, the other attendant offers their services which includes a massage and scrubbing.

In the dressing room, which is surrounded by a private stall, you are obliged to remove all your clothing and wrap a cotton cloth around you sarong style. This means that the dress code for both men and women in the hammam, is underwear (or shorts) only.

Inside the Hammam

Once properly dressed, the attendant will ask you to sit or lie down for a approximately 20 minutes while you work up a sweat. This is for the purpose of relaxation and preparation for a full body exfoliation. Next, the attendant will begin to scrub your body with a loofa type brush called a kessa.  After finishing the scrub, your attendant may ask you if you need a soap, towel or shampoo. However, it may be a good idea to bring a towel of our own, as some Hammams do not offer towel services.

Once bathing session comes to a close, you can go to collect your clothes and lounge for a while in the changing area. You can also order soft drinks and other beverages to quench your thirst.

Going to a hammam is an eye-opening cultural experience, as it offers a good opportunity to meet and chat with locals.

Historically, both men and women would take a trip to the Turkish baths to relieve themselves from the hot, dusty streets outside. However, nowadays the main purpose of the hammam is to relax, refresh and rejuvenate – as well as promote good health via massage and heat therapy.

If you are interested in going to hammam, you can visit the popular Hammam Zriba in Zagouan (located in north-eastern of Tunisia). Getting there is quite simple. If you travel with public transportation from Tunis, first go to Zagouan, then locate a bus or shared taxi going to Hammam Zriba.

There is also a famous hammam in Gammarth called Club Oxygene. It is a bit more expensive at 17TD and you need to make a reservation before you go, however with that it has more to offer. In Club Oxygene, you can play sports, enjoy a luxurious spa, or have a drink at Café Journal.

Additionally, there are inexpensive hammams such as Zitouni Hammam at the medina. This hammam only costs 3TD. It’s for women only, and it is clean, with a good hot room. It’s newer and fresher than the others.

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