Taking a traditional Turkish Hamam is certainly a unique experience! On my last day in Göreme the friendly hotel staff arranged a great “the-works” deal for me at nearby Kelebek Turkish Bath Spa. I’ve had spa treatments and massages but none like this. It was pretty cool!
“The Turkish Hamam tradition goes far back to before the Turks reached Anatolia. When the Turks arrived they brought their own bathing tradition but were confronted with another, that of Romans and Byzantines. Eventually the two bathing traditions merged. Later, with the addition of the Moslem concern for cleanliness and respect for the uses of water, a new concept arose – the Turkish Bath. In time, the Turkish Bath became an institution with its own customs.”
A range of equipment is associated with a “traditional” Turkish Bath. Most equipment described below was used during my hamam. Except for the spa owner who was also acting receptionist, everyone spoke Turkish only. This meant limited instructions and communication, but it worked.
The process began with an aromatic sauna to open the pores. The divine scent in the sauna was invigorating and at the same time soothing. Afterwards you make your way to the kurna (marble basin surrounding the entire room). A pestemal (pesh-te-mahl) or Turkish towel fringed at both ends is wrapped around your torso from below the armpits to about mid-thigh. “The pestemal is striped or checked and made of a mixture of silk and cotton, pure cotton, or pure silk.”
A pair of wooden clogs (called patens) keeps your feet clear of the wet marble floor and prevent slipping. “Patens are carved exquisitely and often embellished with mother-of-pearl or sheathed in-tooled silver. Sometimes they have jingles or a woven straw sheath.” Patens were not used for my hamam – we were barefoot.
As you stretch out to relax on the warm marble kurna stone, a metal inlaid tas (bowl) made of weathered silver, tinned copper, or brass is used to pour warm to hot water over your body.
A soap case with a handle and perforations at the bottom allows soapy water to run out for the hamam process. The soap case also has a coarse mitt cloth with a webbing of date-palm woven out of plant fibers. The mitt is used for lathering the soap, scouring dirt from the pores, and delivering a “bracing” massage.
There are three towels for drying, one goes around the hair, one around the shoulders, and one around the waist. The hamam process takes ~60 minutes. In addition to the invigorating bath, I had a rejuvenating body wrap, a massage, and a cleansing / moisturizing facial – all for a price that wouldn’t cover a massage in the US. It was wonderful! I felt energized, properly pampered, and squeaky clean.
The long bus ride to Bodrum was grueling – so special time in the hamam was a great way to prepare. In spite of a few bumps I arrived safely and am enjoying views of the Aegean Sea while orienting myself and learning about another new city. I will be here for 30 days before moving on to Greece.