Turkish Bath- Scrubbed, Rubbed, and Oiled

The step-by-step guide to the Turkish bath (Hamam)

I. INTRODUCTION

1)  First off, there is no giant bathtub or soaking pool, so forget the swimsuit or any thoughts of skinny dipping.  A Turkish bath is for bathing.  The baths have been around for a couple of thousand years.  Ancient Turkish households did not have “bathrooms.”  As a result, public bath houses popped-up.  A Turkish bath does have therapeutic properties.  It relaxes the muscles. It exfoliates the skin.  It stimulates circulation and it massages the muscles.

2)  Cost/person:  $18 dollars for bath + $7 for rubdown = $25 prices vary.

  • Tipping:  We were advised by the owner of our hotel to tip the person who washes you $5.  We also tipped the person who gave us the rubdown $5.
  • Total cost/person = $25 + $10= $35 or 70 Turkish Lyra.

3)  Note to women:  Men and women are washed and rubbed identically, often by a man.  This means that a woman’s chest will be cleaned and rubbed in the same manner as a man’s.  It’s not groping, it’s how it’s done. However, the washing of the private parts are left to the individual and there are separate stalls after your washing that you can step into to accomplish that task.

4)  Etiquette: It is considered rude to strip and walk around naked in a Turkish bath.  Men, keep a towel wrapped around your waist. Women, if you are in a co-ed bath, keep the towel wrapped around you sarong style.  If you are in a female only Turkish bath, apparently it is perfectly fine to wrap the towel around your waist.

5)  Soap and shampoo & towels:  If you choose to wash yourself, you can  bring your own soap and shampoo or buy it there.  The hamam provides the towels.

II.  THE PROCESS

Each Haman operates slightly differently.  The following is our experience.

1) We walked in the door and there was a reception desk on the left.  We were asked if we wanted a Turkish bath, which I assume they figured we wanted to have someone wash us.  We were then asked if we wanted the olive oil rubdown for an additional fee.  *Note- the olive oil used for the rubdown is not what we would grab off of our cooking shelf.  It is clear and thinner viscosity.  It did not have a fragrance.  We did not pay until later.

2)  At the reception desk, a wooden lock box was set down and we were told to put our wallets and watches in the box.  We were then given a key to the box that one of us could wear around our wrist.

3)  We were directed to a changing room and told to wrap the cotton sarong around our waists.  Because it was coed, Bobbi was told to wrap her’s like a sarong. The changing room had hooks for our clothes.

4)  We were then led into the bath.  It was a large round room with marble floors and walls. It was nice and warm, but not as hot as a steam bath. The ceiling was domed with several small circles that allowed natural light to enter.  In the center of the room was a round marble slab whose top surface was about 3 feet above floor level.  The slab could accommodate 7-8 people. Along the side walls were what looked like “dressing rooms.”  Each room had a curtain to cover the entryway, a wash bowl and hot and cold water spigots.

5)  We were then shown a bowl, and a wash basin.  This was used to initially rinse us off.

6)  We were told to lie down on the round marble slab- head toward the center and feet toward the edge;  like spokes on a wheel.  The slab was heated, and we lay on it for twenty minutes.  This allowed our pores to open.

7)  Then it was time to be washed.  I was told to lie face down on another marble slab. Whereupon, the man who washed me took an exfoliating mitt and scrubbed all pieces and parts, except the private parts.  Since this was my first Turkish bath,  a lot of dead skin came off.  I was told that this was typical.  He then took a thin cotton bag, blew into it and then compressed it on me which covered me in silky bubbles.  He then washed me, and incorporated a short rubdown of my back muscles.

8)  After he rinsed me off, he directed me to a side “dressing room” with a shower head.  This was a “cold shower.”  It closed my now clean pores.  Then I went into another dressing room, where I could wash my private parts. I was then provided a dry towel.

9)  I then left the domed room and was directed to an upstairs alcove where there was a massage table.  The massage lasted about ten minutes, and was more like a strong rubdown.  The message went a bit deeper than my muscles were ready for, but being slathered in an olive massage oil, the rubdown for the most part felt great.

10)  I was then given another warm dry towel and offered a cup of tea while I waited for Bobbi.  When I finished, we changed into our clothes; paid at the front counter, and separately tipped the man who scrubbed us down and the man who gave us rubdowns, and out the door we went.

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15 comments

  1. Okay, you guys are SERIOUSLY more adventurous than I… and I thought you were brave eating stomach!

  2. Yes much more adventurous than I would ever be!

  3. Yeah, I was a little taken aback when (1) both my bather and masseuse were male, and (2) they yanked my towel down to my waist – full frontal scrubbing AND massage. If the whole thing hadn’t transpired in front of Ken I probably would have screamed my bloody head off, but luckily I kept my cool (it actually didn’t have any sort of inappropriate tone to it). I *did* come home and Google it – just in case! – and some of the other blogs about Turkish baths are HYSTERICAL. I guess I wasn’t the only one surprised!

    1. Okay, that actually sounds a little traumatizing. You’re calmer than I; I probably would have slugged somebody out of reflex and then gotten to see what a Turkish prison is like!

      1. I’d come visit you… :o)

  4. I decided to pass on the Turkish Baths when I was in Istanbul. But I did go to the baths in Hungary which were more like a spa with saunas and pools of hot and cold temperatures.

    1. Yeah… That’s more of what we were expecting. My back had been bothering me and I was dreaming of a good soak or sauna. Oh well; the hot marble table felt great, and the massage took care of my back. :o)

  5. So, given point 10, I’m taking it that it’s a universal truth that women always take longer in the bath than men!

  6. musiplays · · Reply

    Gosh…I’ve always wondered about this. You two are brave. You didn’t really say if you liked it….would you go for it again?

    1. Sorry, C. I missed this somehow! Perceptive, aren’t you… Honestly, I have mixed feelings. Definitely glad I did it, as I’m a big believer in detoxing the skin and the next day I really noticed a difference in the feel of my skin. And I LOVED that soapy stuff he put in the bag and blew into it to cover me with all the suds; that felt like magic. And while Ken felt like his muscles weren’t warmed up enough for the rigorous/deep massage, I’m used to deep tissue massage for my back so it wasn’t too bad (although I was a little sore the next day). HOWEVER. I’m trying not to be a prudish American but I was a little weirded out by going topless with a male masseuse. I definitely want to go to an all-women hamam before we leave and it’s clearly a social outing so I wish I had some female friends to bring along. :o)

  7. You Bums – Well, maybe its your job to run around the world spreading light. Hope you are meditating and bringing peace. Luv,T

    1. Hmmm, I didn’t think that quite sounded like Sally…! Don’t worry; KC’s meditating, and he particularly liked San Miniato in Florence which is the oldest church and still an active (Benedictine?) monastery, and ALSO where Mr. Miniato was beheaded (I forget why) and picked up his head and walked back into the monastery, immediately qualifying for sainthood! Despite that gory tale, I understand Ken’s affinity for the place: peaceful, dark and quiet with few tourists. Merry Christmas!

  8. Safari sounds more my style! :o)
    I’ll stick with traditional American-style massage.
    Jo Ellen has that skill par excellence!

  9. Much braver than I would have been, but the step by step description is fascinating. I’m so enjoying each one of these stories and adventures! Glad to know the trauma of having male attendants was somewhat offset by your back feeling better, Bobbi.

  10. […] manicure/pedicure, and one can even get scrubbed and rubbed in a manner similar to a Turkish bath [Turkish Baths]. There are napping rooms, entertainment rooms full of recliners and a big screen TV (the TV volume […]

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