Hammam is a bath similar to traditional Roman baths. They are more common among Islamic countries in North Africa and Turkey. When the early Christians started thumbing their noses and being all conservative against the Roman baths, the early Muslims kept the tradition of their Roman imperialists. It was also important to clean themselves before entering the mosques so going to hammams was a religious necessity. The funny thing is the early Christians used to do that. Early churches had baths. Today the tradition of baths or absolutions can be reduced to Catholics and Greek Orthodox Christians dipping their fingers into holy water and making the sign of the cross before entering the church.
I fell in love with the hammam experience when I had my first hammam in Morocco. I wanted another one in Turkey. I also knew it would be slightly different than my experience in Morocco.
Unfortunately, because it is an Islamic thing – you can’t have mixed sexes mingling together in a bath in a hammam. I was with my boyfriend and wanted a couples experience. I really wanted to see old hammam (and Istanbul had a lot of historical hammams. Thank Allah, they still preserve them). But they tend to be expensive because they’re old. They also don’t take credit cards because it is haram/foribben. It is very bad for Muslims to borrow money hence no credit. So I couldn’t use my debit card.
I managed to find a cheap run down yet old hammam near the old tourist district of Istanbul. Mr Z wasn’t a massage guy so I went solo. I wanted to take pictures but unless I wanted water splashing my phone, I decided not to.
First is you go to the main sauna room (see pic above). You lie on the warm slab of marble. Fortunately, since it was the middle of winter I was the only one in the hammam. It was easy to get lost mesmerized by the shafts of light that poured out of the ceiling. The holes were put there to mimic the heavenly skies. It’s the perfect place to meditate and get all the toxins out of your pores at the same time.
After lying there, I was led to a small room for my bath. A middle agedTurkish woman undressed herself. She started scrubbing me with a glove. Then she grabbed a towel and soaped me with the distinctive huge Turkish suds and massaging me. Finally, she dumped buckets of hot water on me and toweled me dry.
Image from Suleymaniye hammam site
Image from Kaunos Tours
Though I do enjoy the Turkish hammam, I prefer the Moroccan hammam more. The difference is they exfoliate and massage you with a mud mask instead of a glove. They also shampoo and wash your hair and give you a head massage. If I have the Moroccan hammam plus Turkish soap suds, that’ll be my favorite hammam.