By Evie Andreou
OMERIYE HAMAM, an integral part of Nicosia’s history for centuries and a top tourist attraction, has reopened after being closed for the past two years.
The Ottoman-era steam bath complex, which closed in 2012 for renovation after the lease of the previous operator expired, is now operated by the Dessange and Quickspa Wellness Group.
Not surprisingly given the history of the place, an Ottoman ambiance is a major theme, from the décor to the Turkish names of the various treatments such as Lokum, Kara Sabun and Rahat.
Multicoloured candleholders, gold rimmed tea glasses, lokums in silver cases, the names given to the cubicles – Harem, Sultan, Hannum and Zehra – and even the fez worn by the masseur all create an image of Ottoman decadence and luxury.
The focus of the main room or cold room of the hamam is the octagonal cistern in the centre, which now serves as a tea bar. Customers can sit around the bar by the fountain and relax after their shower or massage and drink tea, eat a lokum and chat or read the magazines on offer.
Around the cold room, there are elevated cubicles decorated with pillows and drapes which can be rented by individuals or groups. Three of them are used for full body massages.
From the cold room a door leads to the locker and shower area and from there into the hot room.
The hot room is dominated by the large marble top where customers can lie down and relax in the steamy atmosphere. Water lines the floor’s perimeter in tiny open drains, while fuel heats the room from below. Around the hot room there are seven smaller rooms, two of them are used for treatments.
The hamam complex’s history attracts also many tourists who visit the area.
According to Miguel, the hamam’s administrator, many tourists go there daily and ask to have a look inside.
“It is in their guide books and they want to see it,” he said.
The hamam, situated in Tyllirias Square, was a Latin church, before it was turned into a hamam in 1571 by Lala Mustafa Pasha as a donation to celebrate the conquest of Nicosia.
The luxury revamp of the baths is a far cry from the rather seedy, crumbling place it had become before 2003, the year of its first major renovation. Back then, the Omeriye hamam, or Loutra tis Emerkes as it is widely known to Cypriots, was like a ghost forgotten in the past. At times the press would remind people of its existence with romantic articles narrating stories of the “old Nicosia”.
In 2003 it was restored with UNDP/UNOPS funds in cooperation with the Municipality of Nicosia. The restoration was part of a more general upgrading of the area and brought people in that somewhat forgotten part of the old town. It was awarded the 2006 Europa Nostra prize for the Conservation of Architectural Heritage
To use just the hamam costs €30 which includes a towel, soap and a scrubbing loofah as well as complementary tea and lokum. After the use of the hamam a 10 per cent price reduction is offered on any additional service chosen.
The Lokum massage, customised according to the customer’s needs, costs €40 for 25 minutes and a Guzellik relaxing massage costs €55 for 55 minutes. A wide range of different packages are offered.
The hamam is closed on Mondays and there are separate days for men and women as well as couple days. For information: 22 460006 or visit www.hamamomerye.com