Sarajevo Farewell and Isa-begov Hamam

Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – Getaroom India

I spent my last day in Sarajevo walking around enjoying the beautiful city. Late afternoon I had a hamam at Isa Beg Hamam Hotel in the Bistrik neighborhood. The process was invigorating but a little different from Turkish hamams.

Isa Begov Hamam Entrance to Stone Sitting Area

Isa Beg Hamam Process

The hamam had a large Jacuzzi and steam room divided by a warm stone sitting area. Before the bath process began, I loosened up by going back and forth between the Jacuzzi and steam room. There was no göbek taşı – a central, raised marble platform above the heating source or “kurna stone”. Laying on the göbek taşı is the first step in most Turkish hamams. It’s meditative and special, especially if you’re looking up at a beautiful dome.

Jacuzzi Isa Begov Hamam – Destination Sarajevo

The thorough bath process included four different washings, scrubbings, and exfoliation. At the end I was literally squeaky clean! After the scrubbing I had an aromatherapy massage with rosemary and rose oil.

Steam Room Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – A-HOTEL.com

Hamam has been the “meaning of clean” through history. The old Arabic word means the “spreader of warmth” and dates back to ancient Rome.

Isa-begov Hamam Sarajevo – sarajevo.co.ba

Isa-beg Ishakovic – BNN.ba

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The main idea of the hamam is “using steam and hot water to cleanse and relax the body”.

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Old Town Flags Bosnian Independence Day March 1

Šeher Ćehaja Bridge Sarajevo

Depending on the culture, hamams have different structures. Earlier blog posts describe the Turkish bath process I experienced in Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Pomegranate Juice Stand

Sarajevo from Mt. Trebević

Hamams consist of three parts. The first step is heating your body and relaxing. The second part is opening your pores and sweating. After these steps, the “tellak” (masseuse) massages and washes you vigorously with a traditional olive paste soap and thin cloth. Bowls of water poured over the body wash away the dead skin cells.

Mostar Bridge

Jajce Waterfall

The next step is an “intensive scrubbing with a rough mitten called a kese” followed by another extensive rinse with alternating hot and cold water. My tellak was a Bosnian woman who spoke little English but enough to tell me she had a degree in physical therapy, a common occupation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Latin Bridge Sarajevo – Wikimedia Commons

The whole process lasted 3 hours leaving me rejuvenated but feeling like rubber. The cost, including a 60-minute massage, was $50.

Travnik Bridge

History Isa Beg Hamam

Isa Beg Hamam is Sarajevo’s first and oldest bath. It has over 500 years of history and was an old Waqf building donated by Isa-beg Ishakovic. His family came from Saruhan in western Turkey. In the first half of the 15th century the Ishakovic family “played a significant role in Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia”.

Abandoned Building Near Isa Beg Hamam Hotel

Sarajevo City Hall Vijećnica – Sarajevo Times

Isa-beg Ishakovic built the Sarajevo hamam in 1462 during the era of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The building is of “great importance and symbolizes the transition between the rule of the Bosnian Kingdom and Ottoman Empire”.

Kriva Ćuprija Bridge Mostar

Lašva River Travnik

Isa-beg Ishakovic

Isa-beg Ishakovic – known as the “founder of Sarajevo” – was a successful Ottoman General and the Beg (Governor) of Bosna Sandzak. He’s credited with Sarajevo’s urbanization and creating many “magnificent buildings”.

Orthodox Congregational Church of the Holy Mother Old Town Sarajevo

Mt. Trebević Balkan Vista

Isa Beg Hamam is next to Careva (Sultan’s) Mosque which Ishakovic founded and gifted to the Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The Mosque and hamam were built at the same time.

Careva Mosque Bistrik Sarajevo

Old Town Clock Tower and Mosque

Damage During the War

The Hamam suffered serious damage during the war 1992-1995. After renovation by architect Ferhad Mulabegovic it became the Isa Begov Hamam Boutique Hotel. The hotel is protected and preserved as an important cultural heritage icon.

Modern Art Sarajevo

I’ll miss Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo – a special place! Photo memories are attached. More later from Belgrade Serbia.

Old Town Building

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Hodjapasha Turkish Folk Dancing Istanbul

I booked a whirling dervish performance through my hotel in Beyoğluor so I thought…. Communication isn’t always easy in Istanbul since few people speak English. The person I usually ask for help wasn’t available, so I talked to a Turkish concierge who misunderstood me. Instead of the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony, he booked a cultural show of traditional Turkish folk dances. The surprise turned out to be an incredibly entertaining Saturday evening!

The talented dancers performed expressive harem, traditional, and belly dances from diverse cultures and regions in Turkey:

The music, choreography, and costumes were extraordinary! I had a front seat, and the strength and talent of the young dancers was impressive. The principal belly dancer performed several flawless solos, and the fire dance was spectacular!

Amateur photography – no flash – was allowed. I plan to start using video but need practice. Parts of the dance performance would have made incredible video. You can search the Internet for video versions of most dances performed last night.

Turkish Doumbek Drum

Hodjapasha is in Istanbul’s Fatih District. The venue is a transformed 15th-century Hamam. The performance area has a circular glass dance floor and a musician’s stage. Spectators sit around the circular floor surrounded by dramatic lighting and decorations that turn the intimate space into a mystical place!

I saw a sema performance several years ago in Istanbul and wanted to attend another. Sema, a Turkish custom inspired by Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, is a religious ceremony. The entirely different dance performances last night opened a whole new chapter of Turkish culture and tradition for me – understanding these diverse regions and their cultural influences on the country!

Mevlevi Sema Whirling Dervish

Traditional Turkish Bath Istanbul

Vezneciler Turkish Bath Göbek Taşı

Yesterday I experienced my second Turkish Bath – Hamam. Travel can be stressful and a sauna, soak, scrub, and massage sounded soothing. Hamams in Istanbul are inexpensive and the one I visited – Vezneciler Turkish Bath – in Fatih District is said to have “curative water” – yeah!

Vezneciler Turkish Bath istanbul

Ottoman Ruler Sultan Beyazid II built the small traditional Hamam in 1481. Renovated in 1950, the private bath opened to the public to provide income for the madrasa.

Why take a Turkish Bath?

The benefits of a Turkish bath include:

  • Deep cleansing the skin
  • Discharging toxins from the body
  • Accelerating blood circulation
  • Stimulating the immune system
  • Improving muscular and arthritis pain
  • Helping heal respiratory issues by expanding air passages
  • Diminishing inflammation

Vezneciler Turkish Bath

The woman who helped with my Hamam was gentle, but it’s an extremely thorough process which I’ll try to explain below. I highly recommend having a Hamam – but parts of the procedure are not comfortable. The result – feeling clean, rejuvenated, and refreshed – is well worth any discomfort.

Hamam Lathering Process

Turkish Bath Procedure

Loosening Up

The first step is relaxing and “loosening up” your body. It’s important to sweat during this process. After undressing and wrapping myself in a Turkish towel, I proceeded to the marble Hamam room and the heated central marble platform. No one else was in the room, and it was totally silent. I laid flat on my back on the heated platform for about 15 – 20 minutes. I was looking up at a large circular ceiling dome with small holes where the sun was shining through in golden beams. For me, this part of the process was meditative and special.

Sauna Vezneciler Turkish Bath

“The loosening up part of the Hammam process is a perfect time to visually explore the architecture of a Turkish bath. In most cases, it’s an impressive room completely covered in marble featuring a big dome, decorative water basins, and an impressive göbek taşı – the central, raised marble platform above the heating source.”

Vezneciler Turkish Bath

As I slowly “baked” on the marble slab and wondered how long it would take to become well done – the attendant magically came back to save me. She led me into an adjoining room with an extremely hot sauna where I remained for another 15 looooooong minutes. If the marble slab seemed hot – yikes for the sauna!!! I tried to relax, but just as I was about to wimp out and escape the sauna, the attendant came back, handed me a cool bottle of water, and led me to the “scrubbing” room.

Türk Hamam

Soaking and Scrubbing

The soaking, scrubbing, and washing part of the Turkish Bath process took place in a small room off the göbek taşı next to an ornate water basin. The attendant soaked my body with soap and warm water. While slippery and wet, I received a “peeling” with a rough cloth mitt (kese) used to scrub and exfoliate the skin. A finer, less abrasive mitt was used for the face and neck.

Washing, Rinsing, Cooling, Oil Massage

The vigorous scrubbing was followed by a second more thorough lathering with a sudsy cloth swab and a wet full-body massage – head, face, and hair included – then a refreshing rinsing with cold water! After the bath, I sat in the tea room covered in Turkish towels and sipped a cup of green tea followed by a 30-minute oil massage – absolute heaven!

Bath Circular

The Hamam sends a driver to your hotel to pick you up and then takes you home afterwards – an excellent idea since at the end of a Turkish bath you’ll be feeling a bit rubbery and spaced out. Ladies should lose any thought of maintaining their coiffure or makeup during the process…

Dome Vezneciler Turkish Bath

There was no opportunity to take photos, so I’ve attached media shots from the Vezneciler Turkish Bath website. In comparison, the experience was like the first Hamam I had in Cappadocia Turkey several years ago. It’s a lighter version of massages experienced at an Ayurvedic spa in Kerala South India about 10 years ago. Those intense body cleansing treatments and deep tissue massages have no rival!

Bosphorus Dinner Cruise Istanbul

Dolmabahçe Camii at Dusk

Over the weekend, I went on a Bosphorus dinner cruise with traditional Turkish music and dancing – hoping it would be as enjoyable as the Vltava River cruise in Prague. It was completely different from what I imagined but still fun!

Ortaköy Camii and Bosphorous Bridge

I sat at a table with three lively women travelers in their 30s. One was an Australian now living in England and the other two were friends from California’s Santa Cruz. They were well-traveled with interesting lives and lots of fun! The other cruise members were placid Turkish families with children under ten.

We enjoyed chatting and dancing and it was fun hanging out for the evening. They were on 2 – 3 week trips and unlike me, spending only a few days in Istanbul. It was a rainy evening so taking photos outside the boat was difficult, but I managed a few interesting shots and got wet again….

Palace on the Bosphorous

When the weather clears, my plan is to spend time riding day and night Bosphorous ferries to explore the Princes’ Islands and admire Istanbul from the water. I booked a Hodjapasha dervish performance this weekend and am looking forward to it! The dancers perform in the circular of a 550-year-old converted Hamam – Turkish Bath.

Hillside Mosque at Dusk