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Turkish bath House history

What To Expect When Visiting a Turkish Bath or Hamam?

The camekan or entrance hall of Çemberlitaş Hamamı in Istanbul.Before you can decide whether you hate or love going to a Turkish bath or , you need to experience it at least once. If it’s your first visit to a hamam, entering a Turkish bath can be a daunting experience. By describing my last visit to the, you will get a nice impression of the Turkish bath process and customs, so you know what to expect.

Selecting a Hamam and Service

First you need to decide whether you want to visit a historical hamam or a hotel Turkish bath. Next, upon entering the establishment, you have to select and pay for the service of your choice. The options are:

  • Self-Service — you bathe yourself and bring your own soap, shampoo and towel. This is obviously the cheapest option and will cost you around 55 TL. I wouldn’t recommend this for your first visit.
  • Traditional Style — pick this one if you want the real Turkish bath experience. An attendant will wash and massage you for about 15 minutes, and you don’t have to bring any of the equipment. This service will set you back for about 80 TL.
  • Other Styles — The have several other services such as aromatherapy oil massage, reflexology, Indian head massage, and facial clay mask, too. Please check their website if you are interested in those.

Getting a massage and scrub in the Cemberlistas Hamam in Istanbul.Regardless of the service you choose, you are allowed to use the facilities for as long as you wish. I picked the traditional style service, was handed a carton box containing a new scrubber and led into the camekan — a splendid entrance hall with several stories of wooden cubicles.

An attendant guided me to a personal dressing cubicle (some just have lockers) on the first floor, and gave me sandals and a peştemal — a colorful checked cloth to be tied around the waist for modesty.

Will I Be Bare Naked?

Yes and no. There is some strict hamam etiquette to be followed. For starters, there is no mixing! Either the Turkish bath has two sections, one for each sex, or it admits men and women at separate times of the day.

Men usually completely strip down and wear nothing underneath the bath-wrap. Make sure you remain clothed with the bath wrap at all times — flashing is frowned upon. Women on the other hand mostly keep on wearing their underwear ( but often not their bra) underneath the bath-wrap. The choice is yours.

So I undressed, donned the peştemal and slipped into the sandals. Afterwards I locked the door, took the key together with the scrubber and went back downstairs where my masseur led me through the soğukluk (the cooling down room) into the hararet (the hot room).

Bath Procedure

The masseur didn’t follow me into the hot room. First you need to relax and loosen up for a while, and most importantly sweat! A great time to explore the architecture of a Turkish bath. In most cases an impressive room completely covered in marble featuring a big dome, several basins and an impressive göbektaşı — the central, raised platform above the heating source.

Nabu Press The Turkish bath: its design and construction; with chapters on the adaptation of the bath to the private house, the institution, and the training stable
Book (Nabu Press)

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