When is a bath not a bath? When it’s a hamam. Despite the name, a Turkish massage isn’t just about the rub down. Performed in traditional Turkish baths, this sudsy episode will leave your skin exfoliated and squeaky clean.
A Turkish massage isn’t carried out on your run of the mill massage table; instead you’ll be led into a Turkish bath (hamam), similar to a steam room but typically with marble surfaces and much larger. Traditionally the baths have a domed roof to let shafts of light in, but modern day spa hamams often use reflective metallic tiles and light, airy spaces to convey the sense of natural light. Hamams can also not have any natural light.
Taking centre stage will be some large, heated marble stones or a platform where you’ll be asked to sit or lie for a good 20 minutes while you work up a sweat. When your therapist reappears, you should be feeling relaxed and with open pores, ready for a full body exfoliation. Armed with a coarse mitt, your therapist will then pummel and slough your skin, helping you shed a layer of dirt and debris. A douse of water will follow to rinse off any grime before your massage begins.
By now, you might have realised that this isn’t the tenderest of treatments and back on the slab, your arms, shoulders, neck, legs, chest and back will be vigorously massaged. Luckily, because the heat will have helped you limber up; none of the moves should be uncomfortable. After your kneading session, you’ll experience a generous serving of soap suds, courtesy of some olive oil soap and an odd shaped sack, posing as a pillowcase. The sack is swished around in warm water before having air blown into it, which then forces the soapy air thorough fine holes and onto your torso. Depending on the exact treatment, the bubble bag may be produced before or after the initial massage.
When you start to get lost under the lather, it’s time for another quick rinse (sometimes using cool water tubs & baths which can be found at the perimeter if the inside of the hamam), followed by a hair and body wash, then it’s off to a cooler room or relaxation area where you’ll be left to unwind and admire your sparkling skin. Sometimes you'll be given the option of having a wet shave after your experience too, as your soft and supple pores will be in perfect condition to trim away any unwanted tufts of overgrown hair.
Going commando isn’t the only option in a Turkish bath but most men simply cover up their manhood with a small cotton cloth or tiny towel. Women on the other hand, will usually don a swimsuit. Although traditional Turkish baths will see masseurs in no more than a pair of pants, spas do have rules and regulations against that sort of thing, so your therapist will more than likely be fully clothed.
Originally, men and women would take a trip to the Turkish baths to relieve themselves from the hot, dusty streets outside. Nowadays, its main purpose is to relax, refresh and rejuvenate, as well as promote good health via massage and heat therapy.
Turkish baths are a descendant from the famous Roman baths and were a part of Turkish tradition for hundreds of years.