Tag Archives: hammam

Spas of the Orient

23 Oct

While in Istanbul, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the hammams.  The hammams are bathing houses.  One of the best experiences I have ever had.  I highly suggest one if you ever get the chance.  Just be ready to be nearly in the buff around many other women of all shapes, sizes, and ages.

The hammam we went to is super old!

Many may not like the idea of getting naked in front of strangers, but not to worry: the hammam is separated into male and female sections.  This is Turkey after all!  Your bather and masseuse is also a female.  The atmosphere is like an exclusive salon/spa for women only.  Everyone was chatting and relaxing throughout the process.  It was refreshing to be in such an atmosphere after hours and days in the streets of Istanbul hearing cat calls and dealing with uncomfortable male gazes.  I can see why Turkish women spend so much time there!

Entrance to the female section and peaceful sanctuary!

This is the last of my contraband photos…for obvious reasons, it is frowned upon to take photos once within the hammam.

To start off the process, we were shown to lockers to keep our stuff and were given a pair of disposable panties.  We then made our way to the baths where we laid on a heated stone in a very hot room (with a beautiful ceiling above to keep you entertained while you wait).  After a while, one of the bathers calls you over to the edge of the stone and you are exfoliated using a disposable kese (exfoliating bath glove).  You would never realize how much dead skin is on you!  I didn’t see my own when it was removed, but watching other hammam-goers, you see brown dead skin coming off in abundance.  Needless to say, you feel much cleaner just after that!  After this, they pour warm water on you along with suds and give you a clean washing.  None of it is inappropriate, unlike some of the stories I have heard about the men receiving their baths.

After being washed down, you can leisurely soak in their version of hot tubs.  The process is so relaxing because you are not rushed through the process and you can just enjoy yourself.  After we spent enough time there, we headed over to get our massage (this does not come with the basic package, but we decided to splurge to get the full experience).  It was a half hour oil massage and it was much needed!  The whole thing cost me about 60 USD, but it was worth it.  Plus, I think there are other places that are cheaper, this was just a highly recommended place that we knew for sure would be sanitary and satisfactory.

Afterwards, we went to a cooler room with nice oriental cushions and just chatted and relaxed.  Other women got some tea or other refreshing drinks.  Had I known, I would have taken a few lira in with me.

Overall, I think this experience is a must.  Don’t spend much time on your hair or make-up, as they will wash it for you.  I told them I didn’t want them to so that my make-up wouldn’t get all messed up with the water being poured over my head… but then during the massage she ended up massaging my face with lotion, so I really regret not getting my hair washed.  If you are not comfortable going au-naturale afterwards, bring some make-up in your day bag.  Also, we hadn’t thought it through, but we regretted not having brought a brush for our hair.  They have brushes there …. but kind of gross to use them if you ask me.

Afterwards, you feel cleaner than you ever have in my opinion.  I am going to Spain and Morocco, both places that will also have their versions of hammams.  I fully plan on taking advantage of the lower prices for a massage than Denmark and the States and be pampered.  Perhaps even twice in Morocco (cheap spa experience, I say yes!).