This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.
hammam (huh-MAHM) n. a traditional Turkish steam bath.
I came across the term hammam during some readings on the late Ottoman Empire, and - being the word geek that I am - I felt the compulsion to learn more about this ancient art.
While there are a number of variations - such as steps that include clay mud packs and the use of expensive oils - there are a number of common principles to the hammam. The bather first relaxes in a room that is heated by a steady stream of hot air allowing perspiration to flow. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room to increase perspiration before cooling themselves with cold water. Participants typically then enjoy a full body wash and a massage, and then retire to a cooler room in which they can relax and enjoy conversation.
Andrea Sachs of the Washington Post visited a Moroccan hammam and shared her thoughts in a humorous 2006 article in which she recounted her experiences.
My 8-minute solitary morning showers seem, well, a bit rushed and lonely in comparison, though admittedly my Western neuroses would likely get in the way of any immediate plunges into the world of the hammam. If I found myself in a hammam, though, I suspect it would be my luck to be seated next to an auto insurance salesperson, and that the conversation would devolve to actuarial tables and risk assessment.