My Experience in a Turkish Bath or Hammam

If you ever go to Istanbul, one of the things you have to do is have a Turkish Hammam or bath.  My daughter, Lindsey, and I were in Istanbul and put it on our must-do list.  Luckily, we called the second day we were there to get reservations.  Our first choice had no options until after we were gone, so we checked out the internet and found another cute choice, Cukurcuma Hamami 1831.

Outside view of Turkish bath
Cukurcuma Hamami 1831

Traditionally, women and men do not bathe together in a Turkish bath. .  This is one of the few Hammams that we looked at where they do.  We figured that would not be a problem because we would have on bathing suits.  They only have a total of five people bathing at the same time.

We arrived at the Hammam and were seated in the cute main area while we filled out forms.  We followed the greeter upstairs to a private locker area to change and leave our belongings in a safe, locked room.  I told the girl I would be wearing a one-piece bathing suit and that is where the fun began for me.  She said that just wouldn’t do.  I wouldn’t get the full effects of the ritual if I wore that and she gave me a bikini.  A string bikini made of paper!  Now I am a 66-year-old grandmother of 20.  I don’t wear any type of bikini – EVER!!  I am also very modest. But for some crazy reason, I listened to this stranger and did what she said. I put on the PAPER bikini! This was definitely going to be an experience to remember!

Shower area at a Turkish Hammam
Shower area

Despite my fears, I put it on and wrapped myself in the Turkish towel We headed to main area of the Turkish bath downstairs. Here was a marble sitting area with sinks.  Following instructions, we began to “shower” with the warm water for about 10 minutes.  We used metal bowls to pour water all over ourselves to prepare for the bathing part and to make our skin easier to slough off.  Imagine my concern, when another couple joined us.  There I was in my string, paper bikini and a man and woman come and sit down on the same slab as me.  I swallowed hard, never made eye contact and kept pouring water all over me.

After about 10 minutes we were led to another room and we each had a person who put on a rough mitten and rubbed our bodies down to get rid of the old skin.  I enjoyed this mostly because the other couple was not in the same room as us.  It was only Lindsey and I.  For a while.

Main bathing area at Turkish Hammam
Main bathing area

My bathing attendant instructed me to lay down on the marble slab and she began layering copious bubbles all over me.  This felt amazing!  (I tried really hard to not notice that the other couple had joined us in the room at this time). The attendant then rubbed my body with soap and began massaging.  Blissful!  (Minus the paper bikini, that is).

The entire washing ritual lasted 40 minutes.  We were then wrapped in Turkish towels, hair wraps and brought to pillows to lounge on.  Here we had herbal tea, water, and dried fruits.   The experience was so relaxing! After this, we had 40-minute massages.  We paid 660 Turkish lire for this experience (about $100).  I’m sure we could have found them cheaper but this place was highly rated and we wanted to go to a nice place.  Besides, we weren’t paying for our hotel and flights over.

Relaxation area at Turkish Hammam
Relaxation area

Suggestions for when you Visit a Turkish Hammam:

  • Take a two-piece bathing suit
  • Go to a segregated Hammam if you are modest, like me
  • Book when you first get to your destination
  • It’s not necessary to have massages too.  We were so relaxed after our Turkish baths that it was a little overkill.
  • Be sure and book one – it will be one of the highlights of your trip!

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