Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkish Bath, Turkey

The Romans passed down the tradition of public baths to the Byzantines and then on to the Turks. Over the years, the importance has declined as more homes now have running water. Many of the hamams in Istanbul are geared towards tourists but it is possible to find local baths that aren't ridiculously overpriced. So I decided to treat myself to a visit at a historical bath.

The Şifa Turkish bath was built in 1777. The water comes from a spring that is 160 meters (~525 feet) underground. When I entered I was given a cotton wrap, a pair of slippers and a key to a private changing room. After stripping down, and the wrap around me like a skirt, I was taken to a humid room and made to lie down on a big, heated marble pedestal. After about 20 minutes of sweating it out I was taken to another room for my bath.

My attendant only spoke Turkish so everything was done through sign language. I had to sit down on the marble floor and had bowls of water poured over my head. Then an abrasive mitt was used on me to remove the outer layer of dead skin. Fun. After that my hair was washed and I had more water poured over me.

Then I was made to lie down on another marble slap. Marble was everywhere. The attendant blew into a lacy cloth that created olive oil soap bubbles. After being soaped up there was a brief massage followed by another thorough dousing of water. Then I was wrapped up in a couple of dry towels and taken to a cool down room and served hot apple tea.

The whole experience took about 45 minutes. I would have preferred a Spa Sydell session in Atlanta but the whole experience was interesting. And now I can cross "Turkish bath" off of my bucket list. However, the olive oil soap was awesome and I slept really well that night.


  1. I haven't had one yet but can't imagine that I could cross it off after one visit. It looks too fabulous. Weren't you all shiny and new afterwards?

  2. The massage was a little choppy. But the olive oil soap was awesome and my skin felt great afterward.