Nestled between the boundaries of Syria, Iran, Bulgaria and Greece, Turkey is a country replete with a rich cultural and political history. Having established its dominance as a republic in the Turkish War of Independence, Turkey has come a long way in terms of administration, politics, religious tolerance, human rights, education, etc. Having witnessed majestic times like the Byzantine Period and the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has accumulated a history that is unmatched. Such a diverse country is bound to have a culture that stands out from the rest of the world and this Turkish culture is quite a delight to unravel.
What would you get if you blended the Anatolian, Ottoman and Western cultures and unified it under one name? Yes, you guessed it right! The Turkish culture has been influenced by many others and owing to the history of this country, it makes it one of the most diverse cultures in existence. Turkish architecture was catapulted into focus primarily by a chief architect by the name Mimar Sinan. In the arena of sports, soccer is the forte of the Turkish and in terms of cuisine, Turkish tea and Turkish delights are fancied by everyone across the world. But one very distinct feature in Turkish culture is the Turkish bath. Being an amalgamation of Islamic and Roman customs, it is designed not just to cleanse the body but also to cleanse the mind off worries and induce relaxation. Also traditionally called the ‘hammam’, the focal point here is the water and not steam.
The commencement of the bath takes place in a warm room where there is a heavy circulation of hot and dry air. The person is allowed into the room and the purpose is to allow free perspiration. This is followed by a full body wash and a soothing massage which relieves the body from any knots. The bath is finally concluded with a cold water dip into the pool and this serves as an excellent calming technique. There are two variations to this: the Turkish Victorian style bath and the Islamic one. The former involves a dry air circulation while the latter has a humid version of the same. The cold water is splashed in the Islamic version as there is no bathing pool involved. In fact, these baths fascinated the outside world so much that a Victorian Turkish bath was also installed in London.
One key factor in a Turkish bath that speaks volumes of the deep ocean that is the Turkish culture is a pestemal which is the name given to a traditional Turkish towel. Every pestemal is a symbol of rich culture and it signifies the region a person is from. It is a product local to Turkey and it is also called as ‘peshtemal’ or ‘pestamal’. So what is the difference between a regular bathing towel and a pestemal?Well, in terms of functionality, a pestemal is light, it absorbs water instantly and is incredibly easy to carry around due to its negligible weight. It is made exclusively of cotton fabric and it is extremely soft, thus making it an excellent option for baby care too. And to top it all, it comes in a variety of styles and colours, with patterns designed to captivate anyone.
Nowadays, pestemals are used universally, not just in Turkish baths but also in spas, pools, sports facilities and so on. In fact, they have gained so much popularity that one can find a line of colourful pestemals ready for sale on the streets of Greece. The beauty of a pestemal lies in the fact that it is created by the careful hands of the handloom operators of Turkey, who look into every minute detail when they manually operate the looms. No piece created in any other fashion qualifies as an authentic pestemal. In fact, one can easily order authentic Turkish pestemals from online retailers and these are generally guaranteed to be 100% cotton pieces from Turkey.