Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Hamam

Mr Ayak's proposed  business venture has come about because of the job he was doing late last summer near Bodrum, and for part of the winter in Istanbul.  It will involve a Hamam amongst other things.

I am still reluctant to raise my hopes that this venture will succeed, because there are so many pitfalls to be faced in setting up a business in this country.  So until it's up and running...I will say no more.

But I will talk about the Turkish Hamam.   Even though this is my twelfth year in Turkey, I have only been to one Hamam.  A very old, original one, between Turgutreis and Bodrum, which I believe no longer exists.

The Hamam or steam bath has been popular in Turkey for thousands of years, many of them surviving from Hellenic and Roman times.

The Ottomans perfected the hamam, or Turkish bath which, like the Roman bath, had three rooms: the grand, steamy hot room (caldarium) for steam-soaking and massage; the warm room (tepidarium) for washing with soap and water; and the cool room for resting or taking a nap, after the bath with a cup of Turkish coffee or a glass of tea.  The cool room sometimes consists of small cubicles (as did the one I visited) with a bed to relax on.

Hamams were social centres, and the only baths in Turkey until the mid-20th century when people latched on to western-style  plumbing and installed baths and showers in their homes.

Today modern Turks may shower in the morning before going to work, but many still try to find time for a weekly visit to the hamam.  They sit around, wrapped in wonderfully soft Turkish towels, drink tea and chat with their friends.

And of course the hamam has become very popular with tourists.  It's often suggested that when you arrive in Turkey for your holiday, that you try to fit in a visit to the hamam on your first day.  It's a wonderful way to exfoliate your skin, before getting down to the business of working on your tan!

I don't know why I haven't made visits to the hamam a regular part of my life here.  Mr Ayak and I just never seem to get round to it.  He did of course enjoy the benefits of the hamam last year, and will continue to do so if his business venture succeeds.  And naturally I  also hope I'll have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful experience on a regular basis in the future.


  1. I've heard of them, but never experienced one. Can I make a booking now? Not sure when I'll make it to Turkey, but this sounds as good a reason as any!

  2. Sounds fantastic. I'll keep my fingers crossed for Mr Ayak's business venture...

  3.'s certainly one of the many good reasons for visiting this beautiful country.

    Monalisa: Thankyou..that means a lot to me xx

  4. I've never experienced one either. I only remember being fascinated when watching a TV segment showing someone being 'washed' in the tepidarium and the masseuse held a long piece of lightweight cloth with both hands, dipped it in what must have been soapy water, then flung it through the air and then he brought it down on the client's back it had masses of mousse-like bubbles. He did this again and again and covered the body in sudsy bubbles, then scrubbed away. I thought that looked delightful and because of that, I'd like to experience it.

    I thought a Hamman was a male thing, are women indeed allowed or do they have special times or days or areas?

    As for ex-foliation? Yes, need that! But not for sunbathing or tanning purposes, with my fair skin, green eyes and red hair I'm just a lobster after even a tiny bit, I enjoy the beach but hiding under a hat and factor 60+ and an umbrella! Or I go at night!

  5. the more conservative areas, there are different days for women only. However, mixed hamams seem to be pretty acceptable elsewhere,particularly in the tourist areas.
    I do remember my skin feeling so soft and rejuvenated after my one and only experience.

  6. I hope the new venture goes well which I am sure it will I feel it in my bones lol xx

  7. I know what you mean aboyut not going into detail about Mr.Ayak's feels like tempting fate, doesn't it?

    Our cousin's boy, while at catering college in Belgium, took part in a 'hotel exchange', whereby the students ran a resort hotel near looked very swish, I must say...and he said you could hardly keep the guests out of the hamam facilities.

  8. I have posted an award for you on my blog. Thank you for all the "sunshine" you send my way!

    by the way, years ago when I lived in Turkey, I wrote a "report" of my experience in a hamam for a friend's blog... here's the link if you're interested:

    (I wrote this at least 15 years ago...)

  9. Bombshellicious: Thankyou very much. I do hope your bones are accurate!

    Fly: Exactly it. I haven't even talked to family or close friends in detail.
    They are very popular with tourists, which reminds me that I think that's why I haven't been again...too busy!

    Jes: Thankyou for the award..You're very kind xx

    The article is wonderful Jes. It sounds like it was an extremely good hamam..very upmarket and much more luxurious than the one I went to. What a wonderful experience.

  10. Hello dearest, remember me, the ginge from Scotland ha!, hoping this goes through, for some reason I cannot write on blogs, well you know that anyway as I am constantly telling you.

    Anyway, get thyself to the baths hen, sounds so enjoyable, and you know how I feel about Mr Man's venture

  11. Well I copied and pasted your reply Ann, which you can do if you put the blue spot in the box below next to "Name/URL" then type Ann in the box. However I think it may be that you have inadvertently signed out of your google account. Try signing in again...or you can post a comment as I've just explained.

    And in response to your/my/your/my...err the above comment...yes I do know how you feel...Thankyou Love and hugs (())

  12. In my first years in Turkey, I used to go every weekend. Back then, taking a warm shower was not as easy, Although the teachers' flat was modern, the facilities were less so. We had to burn kindling and newspapers under this torpedo- shaped water tank and wait 45 minutes or so.
    Anyway, it was far easier to go to a hamam. There wasn't anything to do in this town. It was quite an experience- the cleaning seemed as spiritual as physical. The echoes and the dripping of the water, the warmth of the marble. Some fat guy would come along and wash you down like a car. Then he would rinse you with boiling hot water! I would leave feeling lighter and light-headed.

  13. Nomad..a warm welcome!

    Yes..that's the feeling...lightheaded! Even though it was so long ago, I'll never forget that feeling. I've made a promise to myself to start going regularly this year.


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