Since water is not to be wasted in the climate of Kyrenaia, the Kyrenaians clean themselves in public bathing houses, the Hammam.
The water, heated to steaming temperatures, flows gently around the body, creating an atmosphere of soothing warmth. Flowing water is used for the cleaning itself. The steam is good for the personal health, relaxing muscles, mind and soul, keeping the skin soft and firm, as well as having other positive health effects.
Hair care is done at a Hammam's barbers' shop, too, including colouring and cutting hair, which is usually kept far away from the baths themselves.
The Hammam have major function in society, too, since they are, beside the tea houses, a major place of meeting and exchanging opinions or doing business or chatting (and gossipping). Drinking tea is one of the ways to pass time in the bath, but board games can be played as well. Keeping children to sit still, though, requires extra skill. It is common to visit a Hammam twice or thrice a week, no matter the social standing, since they are available in all price segments. Rich or influential people can have a private bath. The Grand Hammam of the Azure Hall in Utica, for example, are legendary in their expanse and lavishness. Hammams are usually co-ed.
The houses themselves combine the functionality and the repect for water, adding the rutualisized cleaning. They usually don't have a pool, as running water is preferred, but very few have a small one.
Light is traditionally provided by small glass windows, which create a half-light, with the hot room under a large dome. All rooms are interconnected, the floor heated. With the size of the city, the bathing house grow in size. The larger caravanserais can be equipped with baths as well.
The largest of them is the Public Bathing House of Süleyman, being able to wash half a million people within a day, the most gorgeous is the Small Hammam of the Ruby Hall, which is used exclusively by the family of the Ilkhan of Megido and invited guests. It is usual, that palaces also offer a Hammam to their staff, especially the staff living on the palace grounds.
Showers are highly uncommon in Kyrenaia.
Each visitor is provided with a silken cloth to cover themselves, the Pestemal, most of them are blue, but there is also the option to bring the own with one. One enters the bath itself clothed in that.
Architectural Styles and Sequence of Rooms
Kyrenaian Hammams know three major sequences of rooms, which influence the entire architecture of the bath house:
- The Warm Room, Hot Room, Cold Room Style, or Warm-Hot-Cold-Style. This style is the most common, the vast majority is of that sequence. The Warm Room, full of hot and dry air, is used to let the sweat flow, where the bather is washed with cold water (either doing so him- or herself or having a tellak doing so. Soaking up steam and scrub massages are done in the Hot Room, which is even hotter, before the bather goes into the Cold Room to relax, refresh with a drink (sometimes tea) or maybe nap.
- The Cold Room, Warm Room, Hot Room Style, or Cold-Warm-Hot-Style. This sequence is the second most often, but still seen far less often then the former style, usually only in large private baths (the Large Hammam of the Palace of the Azure Hall would be one example). The Cold Room, as first room, is around outer temperatures, but dominated by a shallow pool of hot water, where the bather soaks up water and relaxes with pleasant conversation or games (floating chess, for example). Once one is acclimatised, one goes into the Warm Room, where massages are provided. The Hot Room, at the end, mostly serves to soak up steam and to further relax.
- The Cold Room, Hot Room, Warm Room Style, or Cold-Hot-Warm-Style. This Style is seen least often, only a few private bads follow this sequence, mostly due to architectual causes. The Cold Room is, again, dominated by a large shallow pool with hot water for acclimatisation, the Hot Room is there to soak up steam and to get massages, but the Warm Room at the end is open to a view, the 'room' being a pool filled with hot water for relaxation confronted with a wonderful panorama. The Altinyarat-Palace is known to have a Cold-Hot-Warm-Style Hammam.
It is usual to enter the water in a Hammam unclothed, with all hair being held out of the water or, in case of for example underarm hair, being removed.
Jobs in the Hammam
There are a variety of jobs in the Hammam, which are typical student jobs in public Hammams. Besides the ones one would expect, for example the stoker for the fire warming the water up, there are also a few more specialized jobs.
In private Hammams, some of these jobs are usually taken by specially trained people and in public Hammams, depending on the size and price category of the house, the workers are either part-timers or full-time professionals.
One of these would be the tellak, the man soaping the bather up and then washing it all down, giving a light massage while he is at it.
The halaq is the 'hair-remover', the barber and the person to remove all hair not on the head.