My Side of the Hamam

Posted on May 17, 2011


My name is Cari.  I’ve been mentioned before.  I was featured in the cherry limeade tutorial photos.  Recently, Stephen wrote a blog entry about our hamam experiences in Turkey.  Today was our 3rd visit to the hamam due to the water being turned off in the general Kadıköy area.  Stephen mentioned that there is some difference between the men’s and women’s sides of the hamam.  It is my duty to elaborate.

How comfortable are you walking around completely naked with other women of all ages and sizes and a little boy here and there?  How comfortable are you having a big fat belly and two big fat boobies talking to you?  If you are a lady raised in the American south the idea is a little foreign.  However, if you are European or Turkish it’s as if there was never a garden and never a serpent and God never found you cowering in a viney corner.  You have no shame.  You have no body issues, and if you do, it’s an open topic of conversation.  I can now tell exactly who the tourists are in any hamam because they are the only ones who use their hamam towels.

When you enter the hamam, you walk to a dressing cabin.  A big lady wearing nothing but undies gives you your hamam towel.  You will find your plastic sandals in your cabin or upon entering.  Undress, except for some grunders (a variation of ‘Grundies’ a word used by a small sect of people from Indiana (my family) to mean underware.  Want some?  Your possesions will be locked in your cabin or a locker, and then you wear the key around your wrist.  Enter the hamam.  Normally, there are many marble chambers.  Explore and find a low marble sink of your choosing.  There will be a pole just above your head.  Take off your towel and hang it on the pole and forget you ever had a towel.

If you take your towel everywhere with you then you are obviously a body-conscious tourist and there is no need in this place.

Definitely Tourists.

Start out by washing yourself with a basin in your marble sink.  There is a hot and cold tap:  sizzling hot, freezing cold or mix for warm water.  Wash and wash and wash.  Some hamams will have a sauna.  The Aziziye Hamam that is our local hamam in Kadıköy does not have a sauna for women.  You will lay on the elevated marble platform that is extra hot.  This is where you can choose to have the exfoliation (kese) and massage (massage) if you want.  I’ve had the full treatment only once, and it scraped the skin off my back and I bled.  So this is what I do, and what many women do:  I bring every fun little bath product I have and exfoliate myself (gently), give my hair a wax treatment, lay on the hot stone as much as I want and then go back to my sink for a cold splash of rebirth.

However, if you get the kese and the massage, push aside your stuffy culture and your body issues and forget about all the naked people.  Let the big naked lady scrape you clean and push you around and turn you into  jello.  The whole experience makes you feel like curling up into the fetal position and taking a nap beside your sink.

The lady’s side has less amenities, less privacy, less bone cracking, and less traditional touches, but it’s a great experience and you’ll want to go back.