Yesterday I experienced my second Turkish Bath – Hamam. Travel can be stressful and a sauna, soak, scrub, and massage sounded soothing. Hamams in Istanbul are inexpensive and the one I visited – Vezneciler Turkish Bath – in Fatih District is said to have “curative water” – yeah!
Why take a Turkish Bath?
The benefits of a Turkish bath include:
- Deep cleansing the skin
- Discharging toxins from the body
- Accelerating blood circulation
- Stimulating the immune system
- Improving muscular and arthritis pain
- Helping heal respiratory issues by expanding air passages
- Diminishing inflammation
The woman who helped with my Hamam was gentle, but it’s an extremely thorough process which I’ll try to explain below. I highly recommend having a Hamam – but parts of the procedure are not comfortable. The result – feeling clean, rejuvenated, vibrant, and refreshed – is well worth any discomfort.
Turkish Bath Procedure
The first step is relaxing and “loosening up” your body. It’s important to sweat during this process. After undressing and wrapping myself in a Turkish towel, I proceeded to the marble Hamam room and the heated central marble platform. No one else was in the room, and it was totally silent. I laid flat on my back on the heated platform for about 15 – 20 minutes. I was looking up at a large circular ceiling dome with small holes where the sun was shining through in golden beams. For me, this part of the process was meditative and special.
“The loosening up part of the Hammam process is a perfect time to visually explore the architecture of a Turkish bath. In most cases, it’s an impressive room completely covered in marble featuring a big dome, decorative water basins, and an impressive göbek taşı – the central, raised marble platform above the heating source.”
As I slowly “baked” on the marble slab and wondered how long it would take to become well done – the attendant magically came back to save me. She led me into an adjoining room with an extremely hot sauna where I remained for another 15 looooooong minutes. If the marble slab seemed hot – yikes for the sauna!!! I tried to relax, but just as I was about to wimp out and escape the sauna, the attendant came back, handed me a cool bottle of water, and led me to the “scrubbing” room.
Soaking and Scrubbing
The soaking, scrubbing, and washing part of the Turkish Bath process took place in a small room off the göbek taşı next to an ornate water basin. The attendant soaked my body with soap and warm water. While slippery and wet, I received a “peeling” with a rough cloth mitt (kese) used to scrub and exfoliate the skin. A finer, less abrasive mitt was used for the face and neck.
Washing, Rinsing, Cooling, Oil Massage
The vigorous scrubbing was followed by a second more thorough lathering with a sudsy cloth swab and a wet full-body massage – head, face, and hair included – then a refreshing rinsing with cold water! After the bath, I sat in the tea room covered in Turkish towels and sipped a cup of green tea followed by a 30-minute oil massage – absolute heaven!
The Hamam sends a driver to your hotel to pick you up and then takes you home afterwards – an excellent idea since at the end of a Turkish bath you’ll be feeling a bit rubbery and spaced out. Ladies should lose any thought of maintaining their coiffure or makeup during the process…
There was no opportunity to take photos, so I’ve attached media shots from the Vezneciler Turkish Bath website. In comparison, the experience was like the first Hamam I had in Cappadocia several years ago. It’s a lighter version of massages experienced at an Ayurvedic spa in Kerala South India about 10 years ago. Those intense body cleansing treatments and deep tissue massages have no rival!