With the girls in Turkey, I had to take them to the hamam (Turkish bath). Devon actually went twice; but they both loved it. After having been indoctrinated into the world of public bathing in Japan, both of them thought this was much easier and much more comfortable. That might have something to do with the fact that everyone thinks we are Turkish until they try to talk to us…so less staring. Here’s a little how-to on Turkish public bathing.
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What to bring:
1. Money. It’s not as cheap as it used to be…just to enter is around 15 Tl., then they charge you for each additional service ie. waxing, hair dye, getting pealed, and massage.
2. Your toiletries which must include soap, shampoo, a kese (scrub pad – but you can buy this at the hamam if you need to), and a washcloth (Turkish washcloths are knitted.). Of course, you can bring any other toiletries you would like, but the attendent will want to use these items on you.
3. A hairbrush and an extra pair of underwear. Why? Because you wear your panties in the bath and they are soaking wet when you are finished.
Other optional items would be a bathrobe, your own towel (for the final drying), and flip flops or shower shoes (so you don’t have to borrow theirs).
How to hamam:
1. After arriving, usually someone will claim us and tell us where to find an empty changing room. There we are provided with a hamam towel and shower shoes. We undress and make our way to the bath or to get waxed. (Remember to leave your panties on, if you are a woman.)
Note: You must not get wet before you are waxed. If a waxing is on your agenda, make sure you find out where to go and be prepared. If the attendant gets a little too rough, just say “Yavash”, which means “slow”.
2. Go straight to a marble basin where there is piping hot water as well as a cold tap running. Take the plastic bowl and splash it on all of your body parts for at least 10 minutes. At this point, do not use any soap or shampoo, just lots and lots of water. It is to soften you up.
3. The attendant will come and get you. Follow her to a marble slab and lie on your stomach. The first part of the routine is the “pilic” or scrub or peal, whatever. The attendant will scrub off your old skin.
4. After she is finished with the pealing, she will either order you to go rinse, or she will splash you with buckets of water, both hot and cold.
5. Now it’s time for the wash and massage. The attendant will wash you like you haven’t been washed since you were an infant. Don’t worry about those pesky panties, she will pull them, roll them, make them into a thong…whatever is needed to get to those grimy spots. While washing, she will give you a somewhat mild massage. Just go with the flow and turn over when she slaps you.
6. The attendant is all finished with you, now it’s your turn to wash again. You go back to your basin and scrub, scrub, scrub. This should take a minimum of 30 minutes.
Please remember that at all times, you should never put any of your body parts into the basin. Only dip the plastic bowl in there and do everything with the bowl. It is especially important to keep your hair away from it.
7. When you are all finished, tidy up your area by splashing it down, grab your stuff and head to your room. Here you can take a nap or just change back into your regular clothes.
8. Have a cup of cay downstairs with the other ladies, pay, give a decent tip, and away you go, feeling better than you can imagine.
There are many great old hamams in all the cities. Understand that if they have the word “spa” associated with it, it will cost at least triple for the same services!
Have you been to a Turkish hamam? What were your impressions?