Thursday, March 13, 2008

Indiana Town Declares New Hamam Business "Not a Turkish Bathhouse"

The Turkish bath, or Hamam, is a cultural institution in the Middle East. After a visit in the Hamam, a customer finds his muscles relaxed, his body cleansed and his mind refreshed.

A customer arrives to the hamam, changes into a robe provided by the bath and enters a beautifully decorated, mosque-like sauna. A masseuse then massages the customer with soap and water for approximately 15 minutes and then bathes the customer with soap and water. The hamam is a body and mind-cleansing experience. Beyond being relaxing and hygenic, the hamam has also become ironically a place for conversation and deal-making. Source - whynot

A new Hamam is open for business in Indianapolis, Indiana, after quite a bit of wrangling with the city planners and objections from local residents.

Traditionally a hamam is known as a Turkish bathhouse, while new owners, Julia Fonte and Karim Bouriga, disagree. When the city required them to obtain a bathhouse permit, the first such permit to be ever be issued, they objected to the "bathhouse label".

“I’m not opposed to regulation,” Fonte said. “I’m opposed to that adult, bathhouse label. I think it showed total ignorance of our business by the controllers office, which made its decision without having knowledge of what a hamam actually is.”

The Turkish BathHouse takes this Middle Eastern institution and adopts it to American society in the same way that Starbucks brought the Italian cafe bar to the United States. Maximum priority will be placed on service, including extreme cleanliness, and training all employees how to provide elegant and relaxing service.

A customer can choose an Express Bath or a Traditional Bath. The Express Bath is targetted at a lunchtime break or quick post-work relaxer and guarantees a system time of 30 minutes. The Traditional Bath offers unlimited time in sauna, and other amenities. Source - Whynot

Fonte, a nurse, contacted the city and after an "estimated 150 calls" the city removed its requirement for the bathhouse permit.

If I hadn’t made all those calls, we would have been forced to get that bathhouse permit,” Fonte said.

“The idea of that was so offensive to me as a nurse and even more offensive to my partner, who is a Muslim.
Pike Fire Marshal Steve Jones disagrees with the city's designation.
“I’m saying this not as the fire marshal, but as Steve Jones, Pike Township resident,” he said. “It’s the city’s job to insure ordinances are being followed, but they’ve allowed her (Fonte) to redefine what it is that she does, and that sounds like a political cave. It fit the description of a bathhouse and that’s why the city put it there. I don’t think the city made a mistake classifying it like that, but it’s easier (for the city) to let it go and hope nothing happens.”

Fonte says that her hamam will be “a discreet facility for complete body cleansing and exfoliation in a unique, private setting,” similar to an American spa treatment.


Image - Hamam
Source - Indystar - Bigger, Better!.
Death by 1000 Papercuts Front Page.

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