Traditional Hamam - The Turkish Bath
The Turkish hamam is a wonderful chance to finish your holiday here in Turkey in a really relaxing way. Forget all your prudish ideas of body care and step in! This experience will be unforgettableand will be one of the highlights of your holiday. Join in this traditional method of cultivated cleansing and relaxation which you will never experience in western European bathrooms and showers.
Muslim people think differently when washing themselves: how can it be clean, when you are soaking in your own dirt? This is only possible when there is running water.
After a long day of shopping or sightseeing, the hamam can be the ideal way to get rid of the dirt and dust of the day, to relax on warm stone completely covered with soapy lather. In the large towns people are used to foreign holiday visitors so they can usually speak different languages and together with other foreign people it is easy to overcome feelings of trepidation.
Just like the old Roman baths. Turkish baths are split into three different parts. Next to the entry there is a reception area and dressing room (called camecan), where you leave your clothes and can have a drink of tea after the bath. Next, a corridor called the sagukluk connects the camecan with the steam room (hararet). It is here that you will also find the toilets.
A most beautifully designed hot steam room (the hararet) is the place where the ceremony of washing and massage will happen. The walls are usually covered with marble and brass water taps are fitted to the marble water basins. In the centre is a huge slab of marble. This is the place to relax, all it heated up by a huge fire below. You should lie down and relax, enjoy the massage and follow the changing patterns of light shining through the dome.
At the entrance you will find a price list for all the different massages available: The most popular one is the Kese? a complete massage of your body where the staff use gloves covered with camel hair for the main massage and your face and feet are massaged using different soaps and herbs. If there just is time for one visit you should try to experience this complete massage. The price is very reasonable.
Mixed hamams for men and women are only allowed in the big tourist hotels. In fact, a man who went into a female bath for women was sentenced to death once! After undressing, you will get a big towel to cover yourself and some slippers for your feet. This towel needs to be fixed around your hips properly and you should be careful with it even when you are washing yourself. The male hamams, without exception, are very strict and do not accept towels falling down!
In a female hamam it is completely different. They are usually covered with a towel, but can sometimes be completely naked or just wearing a slip while the children enjoy themselves playing. Most of the staff are really nice and always good for a joke while they are washing away the dirt of the last few years.
From head to toe, you will be completely covered with soap bubbles. You will be pampered like a baby and afterwards your skin will feel like that of a new-born child. You should plan on spending at least an hour to enjoy all these procedures.
In Istanbul there are more than 100 hamams still in use today. Antalya is famous for spa and hamam hotels. All the money which is collected by these public hamams goes directly into educational centres like schools or other public institutions like hospitals. Because of high domestic energy costs, the hamams are used daily by many of the inhabitants of Istanbul.
If you think this is for you, it will be an experience you will not forget quickly.
Please read as well:
Sheltered home - a solution for residents