The hotel that we were staying in offered complimentary Turkish Bath for guests. I guess all hotels in Turkey would offer a Turkish bath experience – I’d be surprised, nay, shocked if they did not! Had been telling my husband that we should go and experience a Turkish Bath while we were in Istanbul – it would be sacriliege not to!
Our guide on an earlier tour had explained that Islam’s emphasis on personal cleanliness was responsible for construction of hundreds of hamams all over Turkey, and, especially Istanbul. Men and women have different hamams or different bathing hours in the same hamam. While some public hamams are clean, he recommened that we use our hotel one (if the hotel was a reputed, neat and clean one) to avoid any chance of any infection!
So while everyone slept in the afternoon, I ventured down to the floor that housed the Turkish bath.
I was ushered into the ladies cloakroom to change, and, offered a cloth (pestemal) to wrap around me. I politely declined, indicating that I preferred my one-piece swimwear. How would I get cleaned, asked the hamamn attendant, despairingly shaking her head. I’m quite clean actually, thank you, this was just for the experience! Shaking her head at this strange foreigner, she lead me to the steam room, where I sweated for about 15mins.
After this, she lead me to the main hamam area which is a big room, really, really sweltry with a round marbled podium in the centre. All along the walls, there were quaint brass baisins with taps above (one for hot and the other for cold water) and a brass bowl to scoop the water.
It appeared I had a choice, explained the attendant. I could either soap myself or she would do it for me. Basically, the attendant would rub you all over with a coarse cloth called kese to clean you of all your dirt. Then she would lather you with soap suds, and, then wash you. After this was done, for a fee, you can get a massage, where they make you lie down on the marble podium in the centre. I had seen tons of these photographs when looking up Turkish baths. Now I knew better!
I opted to bathe myself. After being steamed for 15 mins, the cool water felt heavenly against my skin, and, I must admit that I felt really clean.
Verdict: A Turkish bath is a must do, not just for the resultant cleanliness, but jst for the experience!