Taking a traditional Turkish Hamam is certainly a unique experience! On my last day in Göreme, the hotel staff arranged a great “the-works” deal for me at nearby Kelebek Turkish Bath Spa. I’ve had spa treatments and massages before, but none like this. It was pretty cool!
“The Turkish Hamam tradition goes back to before the Turks reached Anatolia. When the Turks arrived, they brought their own bathing tradition and in turn, were confronted with other Roman and Byzantine methods. Eventually, the two bathing traditions merged. Later, with the addition of the Muslim 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.”
Equipment and Process
A range of hamam equipment is associated with a “traditional” Turkish Bath. Most of the equipment described below was used during my hamam. Only the spa owner spoke English, but even with limited instructions and communication, it worked.
The process began with an aromatic sauna to open the pores. Rosemary and eucalyptus scents in the sauna were 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 silk/cotton mixture, pure cotton, or pure silk.”
A pair of wooden clogs (patens) prevent slipping and keep your feet clear of the wet marble floor. “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 exfoliating mitt cloth made with date-palm webbing woven out of plant fibers. The mitt is used to lather the soap, scour dirt from your pores, and deliver a “bracing” but rejuvenating massage.
There are three towels for drying, one around the hair, one over 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, massage, and cleansing/moisturizing facial – all for a reasonable price that wouldn’t even cover a massage in the US. It was wonderful, leaving energized and feeling squeaky clean.
The long bus ride to Bodrum was grueling – so special time in the hamam was a great way to relax and prepare. In spite of a few unexpected bumps, I arrived in Bodrum safely and am enjoying views of the Aegean Sea while orienting myself and learning about another new city. I’ll be here for thirty days before moving on to Greece.