My experience with Turkish baths, or Hamams, was an interesting one to stay the least. I’ve experienced an Arabic bath when I was in Spain. I figured this would be pretty much the same, but I was so wrong. In a good way. I went to the Ayasofoya Hamam which was originally constructed in 1556. Here’s a little background:
“The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam in Istanbul was designed and built by Mimar Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect. It was built at the request of Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana), the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century (1556-1557 AD). It was built where the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (100-200 AD) used to stand, between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. The area is also particularly significant as the site where the Temple of Zeus once stood.”
The men and women entrances are completely separate and on opposite ends of the building. I started the experience by entering the Hamam on the far end closest to the Blue Mosque.
I went in and was greeted by the manager. She led me in to the very quiet and dim room with relaxing, soft Turkish music playing and I filled out the standard “do you have any injuries” paperwork. Once I was done with that, I went to the changing area where you remove everything. When I say everything, I mean EV-ER-Y-THING. They do provide you with disposable underwear that feel more like a loose peace of cotton than underwear. And I got a purple peshtamal (turkish hand woven towel) to wrap around myself. I then met the attendant who would be performing the bath on me. She took my hand, and while holding hands, she led me to the next room. That was different for me. Usually they say something like “come with me” and you follow behind them. But she took my hand, and led me to the next destination. It’s subtle, but was very noticeable for me. I thought it was nice and immediately indicated to me that this would be a very different experience. We went into the all-white marble room and she instructed me to sit next to the fountain with the gold spout. I sat down, she ran the water and made sure it was a nice temperature. She handed me a gold bowl and told me to sit back against the wall and relax. I sat against the wall, to attention, and she said, “no relax”. I still didn’t understand what she meant, so she sat next to me and sat down against the wall and completely let herself relax. Every single muscle, down to her posture was almost limp. Then I had the “oooooh” moment, and understood what I needed to do. The whole point is to completely let go, and cleanse your body and mind. So I did just that, and used the gold bowl to pour water over myself as I waited for her to return.
When she returned, she also changed into just the towel and some flip flops so she doesn’t get her clothes wet while she baths me. She took the special exfoliating mit and scrubbed my whole body from my face down to my feet. She did everything. My butt, my legs, my boobs, feet, everything. I remember thinking “this must be what it feels like to a baby when they get a bath”! Once she was done exfoliating, she walked me over the the center of the room and then unwrapped my peshtamal and laid it on top of the heated marble. I laid down on top of it, face up, wondering “what the heck is she about to do?!”. She then took a bucket and dipped a cloth inside, flipped it around and then rung it out. When she rung it out, a huge blanket of foam soap covered my body. She did this 3 times and my whole body was covered in the soapy foam. Then she washed and massaged my whole body, I turned over and she did the same. Then we went back to the fountain and she rinsed my body and she washed my hair for me. It was literally the most relaxing thing ever. I thought we were done, and apparently we weren’t! We went up 2 flights of stairs and in to a small room with a massage bed. She then gave me a nice medium-pressure massage for about 30 minutes.
When I was done I went back downstairs, put on a robe and relaxed with my choice of Turkish coffee or Turkish tea. The experience was seriously unforgettable. I have never had anything like this happen to me before and it’s something I would love to do again. I felt like Royalty!
You guys, this is a must-do activity when traveling to Istanbul. Why is this the best-kept beauty secret? Because it is a full body exfoliation and moisturizing event! For days my skin felt incredibly soft and glowing. Have you ever been to a Turkish Hamam? Have you ever been to Turkey? xoxo