What are is a Turkish bath or Hamam?
Turkish baths or “Hamam” is a unique mixture of a Sauna to open the pores, bathing with very effective scrubbing & then a massage as an additional extra. Turkish Baths are essentially a continuation of Roman Tradition. In the Ottoman Empire, the Hamam was an everyday feature of life and was usually attached to Mosques as a meeting place of relaxation or deep clean to then enter Mosques for prayer.
In today’s modern Turkey Hamam’s have become much less a part of every day life but more of a special occasion treat and an absolute must for Tourists to Istanbul!
Procedure for Visiting a Turkish Hamam – What is it like?
- Firstly you will enter the Hamam and select the service you would like.
- Basics: They will generally give you a towel, scrub & soap. You will then wash yourself. (warning, some less costly Hamams will not provide these, check first!)
- Intermediate: Someone will scrub & clean you (In Turkish, this person is known as Tellak)
- Premium: As well as the scrubbing, you will also get a massage
- Note: If your skin is particularly sensitive, do not chose this option, as the essential oils used may affect you!
- You will be lead to a changing room where you can prepare for the Hamam. (read Etiquette for Turkish Baths below to learn more about how you should dress)
- You can then enter the hot room for 15 minutes or so (the time is dependent on your wishes). The hot room is very humid with steam, it will open your pores and make your skin soft, ready for cleaning!
- Next you will enter another room where you will be cleansed. Either you, your friend, or Tellak (the professional who will clean you) will begin applying soap and scrubbing you. If done properly, you will be surprised by how much dirt comes off (despite you cleaning once a day for so many years!). This step can hurt a little, as the scrubbing is quite vigorous, therefore if you have pealing skin or sunburn etc it is best to avoid the Hamam. If you have also paid for a massage this may be done in this step or just after. Essential oils may be used and the experience is very relaxing following the intense cleaning you have just received!
- Following this, you will be lead to a cool room where you may be able to lie down on beds, take a shower or use toilets etc.
Following all these steps, you will leave the Hamam feeling much cleaner and relaxed than you entered! An unforgettable experience.
Etiquette for Turkish baths
- Traditionally men and women were always separated, to be together would be exceptionally improper and frowned upon. This is still very much the case but certain hotels and residential places offer a mixed hamam to cater for Tourists who wish to bathe together as couples or friends etc. Most Hamam’s will have separate areas for men and women or will provide services to each at different times in the day.
- Men attending a Hamam will usually be without clothes and just a towel wrapped around the waist for Modesty. Women usually are asked to wear bikini bottoms but often do not wear bras (this is of course entirely optional, wear one if you feel more comfortable!).
- It is a Tradition to tip at Turkish Baths, factor in a 10-20% tip to the person scrubbing or massaging you, if the experience was good of course!
- If you are a Man only accept a Masseur (erkeklere mahsus) , if you are we a women only accept a Masseuse (kadınlara mahsus). This will usually be the only option available to you, but insist if it is not.
Famous Turkish Baths (hamam)
Location: Sultanahmet, Built:1556
Prices: €80 for Scrubbing including head & neck massage
Location: Çemberlitaş, Built: 1584
Price: ~€40 for Scrubbing & 15 minutes massage.