Turkish Baths

There have been hammams or public bath houses in Turkey since medieval times, used both as a place to relax, get clean and as a social spot.

The tradition reached its height during Ottoman times, when it became the social focus for women, for many of whom it provided a rare opportunity to leave their own home and see their friends – as well as eye up prospective future daughters-in-law.

The men bathed in a separate section and even today, many of the Turkish baths still contain separate areas for men and women – or where a town has only one hammam, different times of day or days of the week.

The only exception to this is the baths open to tourists in beach resorts, where it is not uncommon to have mixed bathing and even to be massaged by someone of the opposite sex, which would not happen in a traditional bath. There are still historical hammams open for business, those most popular with visitors to Istanbul include the Cemberlitas designed by the master architect Sinan near Sultanahmet, Cagaoglu and the Galatasaray near Taksim Square.

When you enter the hamam you leave your clothes in a locker and wrap yourself in a towel or cloth called a pestemal which is provided along with wooden slippers. Once in the main bathhouse, you fill your bowl with water from the taps set along the walls and wash yourself by tipping the water from the bowl over yourself. When it’s your turn you lie down on the central marble slab or göbek tasi where you are scrubbed with a rough cloth (called kese) and then lathered with soap and massaged. There is usually an extra charge for these treatments.




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