What is a Hamam?
It is a Turkish Bath! It is a method of cleansing and relaxing.
I wasn’t exactly sure what my experience was going to be like at the bath, but I was definitely open to anything that was like a “spa”. I went to a less touristy bath in Sultanahmet, the old town of Istanbul, so I could get a better feel of what it was really like. My hotel staff said this would be a more local experience. I walked about 10 minutes down the dark street to Kadirga Hamam around 7pm.
I arrived at the door and there was a men’s section and women’s section. I walked up some dark stairs into another room, where I found the women’s hamam. There was a language barrier, but they had the menu in English, so I just pointed to the service that I wanted.
There were two choices:
I chose the bath, scrub and massage. The cost of 53 Turkish Lira is about $15USD.
So here I go….
First the rotund lady wearing just a sports bra and some shorts brought me into a changing room and gave me a towel to put on. At this point, I couldn’t really see what I was getting myself into and the private changing room reminded me of the thermal bath rooms in Budapest. They gave me a key so that your belongings are secure. After completely undressing, I came out with a towel and she led me into a steamy room with several other naked women.
When I got inside, the lady took my towel, and sat me down on the marble ground and started to dump warm water on me using a bowl from the sink. Then she handed me the bowl and had me dump the water on myself for about fifteen minutes. As I walked in there was a big marble slab where a large woman in her underwear was scrubbing a naked lady on a marble table in the center of the room. At first this was a little awkward as I wasn’t sure what was going to happen in there. AND THEN, I realized the lady on the marble was my friend that I met from the hotel. This made the experience a little more funny, since we were joking about not going in together just a few hours prior. We got over the embarrassment of sitting around naked real quick and had a chat when she was done with her treatment and I waiting my turn, meanwhile we continued to dump the water on ourselves.
When it was my turn, they brought me to the slab. The bath worker had me face down on the slap and poured water on my body. She then used a mitten scrubber thing like a loofa and scrubbed/peeled off lots of dead skin. It was peeling off, kind of gross to see, like little worms. Next, she turned me over by gently slapping my bottom to turn over. I thought this was a funny part of the experience and felt a little barbaric. Next, she put soap on me and it bubbled up and this where I was getting washed, still on the marble slap. After getting washed, she poured bowls of water on me to clean off. The next step was the soap and she massaged me for about 5 minutes with soap bubbles. Last, she washed my hair two times having me sit up with my head right in her boobs. Lol. Ending with sitting on the sidelines putting more water on myself and breathing in the steam from the room.
At the end of my session, I changed back into my clothes and hoped to get a selfie with the woman that bathed me until I realized she waiting outside of the room completely naked. I guess because of all of the steam and water they get on them, you take your clothes off after ??? That was a different experience for sure, sitting at the table making my payment with a completely naked lady.
I enjoyed this unique experience, but you definitely have to get over the modesty factor real quick. Everyone should try it at least once, even if it means getting out of your comfort zone. In the end, I felt so clean, fresh, thin and refreshed after the hamam.
When I returned to the hotel and discussed my experience, the men had a different experience that was more modest. The hotel staff were surprised about the women being naked in the hamam as they are covered in the men’s section.
It did have some resemblance of the Korean spa that I visited in Manila, similar to a body scrub that was done in Texas, and not really anything like the baths in Budapest.
There is also another Hamam that is nearby that is more touristic next to the Hagia Sophia, that my friend visited the next day to see the difference in experiences. The price was much higher, but it was more of a spa like atmosphere. She said it was very clean, and the people spoke English, and were very attentive.
I am definitely going to visit more of these while in Turkey to compare and contrast to my first Turkish bath in Turkey. If you know me, then you know I love this sort of thing.
(I really didn’t get too many pictures from this place since it was not really appropriate, maybe next time)
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