Home > Europe, Turkey > TO BATHE OR NOT TO BATHE—TURKISH STYLE

TO BATHE OR NOT TO BATHE—TURKISH STYLE

The haman (Turkish bath) is a Roman tradition, and an experience not to be missed.

The room in which I experienced my first haman at Yacht Classic in Fethiye was entirely marble and circular shaped.  In the center of the room was a large  marble platform on which you lie for this most unusual bathing experience.  Around the circumference of the room was a low bench with beautiful urns spaced at intervals.  Above each urn were faucets, from which both hot and cold water could fill the urns.  The urns had no drains, simply overflowing onto the floor where the water was captured by a drain that surrounded the marble platform.

I have often wondered, as we visited ancient sites, about the existence of many Roman baths.  Having experienced the haman, I have a new appreciation for how “civilized” the cultures were that spawned it.  As in the saying “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, this bathing is a ritual as much as a cleansing.

The ritual bathing can be performed individually at one of the urns or you can be bathed by an attendant—the latter being a very handsome young Turkish man—the equivalent of a massage therapist in the U.S.  Not one to spare any luxury, and not really knowing what the ritual bath entailed, I opted for the young Turk.

As is customary with a massage, you are naked, except for a fringed length of cloth draped in an appropriate way to maintain modesty.  My attendant had a similar length of cloth wrapped around his waist.

The ritual bathing has several steps.  First you lie on the warm marble platform for about 15 minutes as your pores open from the heat of the room—think sauna but with wet heat instead of dry.  This is not a steam bath, just a gentle wet heat that permeates the room.

The next step they call  “peeling”.  I thought that sounded pretty scary, but it is actually quite enjoyable.  Your entire body is gently exfoliated with a loofa mit that is tied on the attendant’s hand.  The idea is to remove dead skin that is not touched by conventional bathing.  After being thoroughly scrubbed, pans of warm water from an urn are poured over you from head to toe.  Another aspect of the ritual is that water is never allowed to sit and is constantly running and therefore fresh.

Once the peeling was complete there is a “foam bath”. The experience was divine.  Taking a large hammered metal urn filled with water and a special soap, the attendant dipped a towel up and down in the urn creating mounds and mounds of foam which he then covered me with as I was lying face down on the platform.  This is the ultimate bubble bath—all bubbles and no water.  Once covered with foam there is a gentle scrubbing massage—need I say more?  Mind you this was all done while appropriately draped in my now very wet body cloth. 

After the foam was washed away by more dousing of water as I lay like a dead fish on this marble platform, I was led to a seat next to one of the urns where my hair was shampooed and conditioned.  At this point, I feel like a baby being tended to by its mother—I am so relaxed, I feel catatonic.

After my shampoo and scalp massage, I am wrapped in dry towels and led to a lounge chair in a small garden-like room to air dry.  Ten minutes later, I am ready for the final step in my ritual bath—the oil massage.

This takes place in a quiet, dimly lit massage room as soft music played in the background.  Thirty minutes later, my ritual bathing complete, I return to the dressing room much cleaner and very happy.  I feel like my soul has been scrubbed as well.

I was told by one of the attendants that this haman is more “spa-like” than some more traditional hamans. but that the ritual bathing is authentic. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince Kent to try it—he has this “thing” about a man massaging his body.  Oh well, his loss.

Haman can be taken alone or in couples, and is traditional for some occasions such as bridal parties.

Sorry, no pictures this time—but you can Google “Turkish bath” or “haman” for more details.  If you ever have the opportunity, don’t miss this experience.

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  1. Sharon Meyers
    August 12th, 2010 at 14:00 | #1

    I think I am a convert!

  2. Sharilyn ‘Hill’ Burdett
    August 16th, 2010 at 18:33 | #2

    A little jealous, yes I am. My massage therapist are all women. 🙂

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