My first time: Hammam

The last time I spent at my sister’s place, I saw that there is a Turkish bath, or hammam, nearby. As some friends told me about their experience in such a location when they were in Morocco, I  was fascinated by this magic and this canonization of the body: Your body is a temple where the souls lives. Until today, this was just a nice saying, a phrase someone drops to appear deep and philosophic or your cosmetician when she or he wants to make more money with you. However, I saw this sign for a Turkish bath and I decided to go there.

This is almost 2 months ago now and finally, I went there. After I read about the packages they have and especially the idea behind the hamman and its rules, I booked 3 hours hammam with a (short) 10-15 minutes foam massage. I was very excited and I took my mother with me, because I was afraid of becoming bored within 3 hours of sweating, washing, cleaning, massage and relaxing. And she was at my sister’s place too.

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When we entered the hammam, the hammam master welcomed and introduced us shortly to the basic rules. All we needed to know was to get naked and wrap a pestemal (linen sheet) around us. After he handed me the sheet, I was looking for a changing room, but there was none. I realized that this place was not a spot to be prude and so I changed into my costume. We were brought into the first hall. It was a rather small room with some kind of a pillar in the middle that spread flavored steam. Humidity was very high and we started to sweat immediately. As the air temperature was high as well, we felt kind of dizzy, but after adapting, it was a nice and warm place. On the walls we found benches made of marble or something like that. Each bench had a decorated sink with a tap for cold and very hot water. In each sink, we found two metal bowls. We were clueless. Fortunately, after a while, a couple joined us and they seemed to be experienced, because after having a seat they started to mix the cold and hot water in the bowl and just splashed it over oneself. We started to do this as well and it was a good feeling. The skin was like a sponge, craving for another shot of cool water while being exposed to this heat and humidity. The hammam master told us to stay for 6-8 minutes at this room in order to warm us up. I guess, it’s a good in-between-room to attune the body to the procedure and the environment and, of course, to open up the pores.

The next station brought us to the center of the hammam. We entered a really beautiful room, very pure and clean, but kept in warm light and soft colors. In the middle of the room there was a small pool with a waterspout. Around this pool, there were niches to sit down, again with a sink to splash water over the body. Above the pool there was a baldachin, whereby I’m not sure whether this is the right word for that. Anyway, it was amazing: In the middle, there was a circle and around curtains colored in red, orange, and beige were arranged alternately. Behind the curtains there were lamps, providing soft light. It directly came out of one of the Arabian Night fairy tales.

Before being allowed to go into the pool, we had to visit two other rooms connected to this one. The first one was a steam sauna, flavored with lemon and maybe thyme. Again, there was a place to refresh the body with cool water using a bowl and it was a relief to do that after sitting there for a while. After that, we relaxed a bit in one of those niches around the pool. The next room was the washing room. We got a washing mitt with some soap at the entrance and so, we took them with us. The room was really hot and completely filled with steam, smelling like herbs and mainly menthol. We started washing us, leaving the soap inside the mitten and dipping it into the water from time to time. While we did that, one of our masseurs came to bring us to the foam massage.

The room was small and a huge pedestal filled the room, or should I say offering table? It really looked like this: made out of stone or marble and reaching from to bottom to my waist. We were told to release our line sheet and lay down on the table on our stomach. Interestingly, the masseurs never looked at us: Of course, we talked to them, maybe to reduce the awkwardness of being naked, but the masseur did always look past myself.

Actually, I have to say that it wasn’t awkward for a long time, maybe just seconds, because the atmosphere built like a cocoon or even another world in this place that I didn’t really thought about the situation of being naked in front of a guy I don’t know and I would usually not share such a private moment with. In contrast, I somehow felt proud of my body and at peace with it. Now, I understood this temple-thing.

The massage started with some more water: cold and warm water flowed simultaneously over my body and he scrubbed my skin using a goat hair mitten. It wasn’t painful or unpleasant, in contrast, it was a nice feeling and I already felt like a baby. After that, he filled a (I would say) pillowcase with foam and streak it over my body and pushing it down over my back. In the end, a thick layer of foam covered me and I felt amazing. He started the massage by stroking, kneading, and rubbing my skin. He massaged my legs, back, shoulders, arms and neck. The procedure could have last forever. The last step was a head massage for which I sat down on a stool with my back looking towards him. After a nice massage of my head and forehead and eyebrows, he brought me back with a bowl full of cool water (he asked me before whether I would like that or not). After he wrapped me in my sheet and made a little joke about the very short length of it (this is the winter edition, in summer they will be shorter), we said goodbye and I followed my mother back into the first hall.

All in all, we had 90 minutes in the hammam and we spent the rest of the 60 minutes sweating, washing and swimming in the pool. Then, we went back to the entrance where the master waited for us. We gave him our line sheets and he wrapped us in a really comfortable bathrobe, ask what beverage we would like to have and offered fruits and black tee. He guided me to the relaxing area of the hammam where we should spent the next 90 minutes. When I opened the door, I was stunned: The room was horizontally divided into a gallery and the ground part and everywhere we saw sofas and footrests and next to it small coffee tables. In the middle of the room, a fountain provided a nice auditive scenery. We ate apples, bananas and mandarin oranges and drunk orange juice and a perfectly brewed black tea.

Surprisingly, the time was passing by very fast and we chilled and talked and all in all it was a very private and close moment.

I can highly recommend to try it out, if you are okay with being naked. However, I know that this kind of hammam is not comparable to a traditional one, but it’s still a nice experience and a good way to get to know the rules and traditions of a Turkish bath.

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