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Cemberlitas Hamami in Istanbul

The Biographical Memoir of a Turkish Bath

Nina Macaraig

Hardback (Forthcoming)

Istanbul’s Çemberlitaş Hamamı provides a case study for the cultural, social and economic functions of Turkish bathhouses over time

Bathhouses (hamams) play a prominent role in Turkish culture, because of their architectural value and social function as places of hygiene, relaxation and interaction. Continuously shaped by social and historical change, the life story of Mimar Sinan’s Çemberlitaş Hamamı in Istanbul provides an important example: established in 1583/4, it was modernized during the Turkish Republic (since 1923) and is now a tourist attraction. As a social space shared by tourists and Turks, it is a critical site through which to investigate how global tourism affects local traditions and how places provide a nucleus of cultural belonging in a globalized world.

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Note on Transliteration         
List of Illustrations
List of Tables         


Chapter 1: Ancestry         
The Patroness: Nurbanu Sultan       
The Architect: Sinan         

Chapter 2: Family         
The Atik Valide Vakfı        
The Atik Valide Mosque Complex       
The Endowed Hamams        

Chapter 3: From Birth to Breadwinner      
The Birth          
Getting Ready to Work        
The Hamam’s Employees        
The Hamam’s Customers        
Making Money         

Chapter 4: Impressions and Identities      
A Place for Ritual Cleansing        
A Place for Socialising        
A Place for Carnal Pleasure        
A Place for Healing         
Pride of the City         

Chapter 5: In Sickness and in Health      
Symptoms: Evidence for Renovations      
Causes: Fires, Earthquakes and Other Calamities     
Treatment: Repair and Renovation Work      

Chapter 6: Old Age         
Renegotiating of Economic Family Relations: Double-Rent    
A New Identity I: Emblem of Ottoman Heritage in the Nineteenth Century  
A New Identity II: Emblem of Ottoman Heritage in the Early Republic  

Chapter 7: Second Spring        
A New Identity III: Tourist Attraction      
A New Identity IV: Object of Ottomania      
A New Identity V: The Managers’ and Employee’s Perspectives   
A New Identity VI: The Digital Age       


Appendix: Excerpts from the Endowment Deed of the Atik Valide Vakfı  

About the Author

Nina Macaraig is Visiting Associate Professor at Koç University, Istanbul. She is co-editor of Istanbul and Water (2015) and editor of Bathing Culture of Anatolian Civilizations: Architecture, History and Imagination (2011).


The bathhouse was at the center of Ottoman life, and consequently reflected the social transformations that occurred in the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. The Çembirlitaş Hamam in Istanbul was an impressive monument, designed by the great architect Sinan and endowed by the legendary Nurbanu, yet it was also a utilitarian building that served the needs of daily life.

In a field dominated by studies of the Ottoman state and its extensive bureaucracy, this book—written with verve and style—uses the metaphor of biography to examine the bath as an institution, building type, waterwork, sensory experience, poetic subject, and social event. Rich in detail, it explores everything from property law to towels. An inscription at the Çembirlitaş Hamam proclaims: "This pleasurable hamam is a wonderful place" – and Reader, this delightful study is a wonderful book.

- D. Fairchild Ruggles, University of Illinois

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