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Visiting a Hammam in Turkey

For many people, much of the joy of traveling can be found in discovering new things – new foods, new cultural customs, and new experiences that just can’t be had at home. Most times, those experiences turn out just as you’d hoped: your eyes are opened to something new, and you walk away with a lovely memory or having gained a great understanding of a local culture.

But sometimes, in order to get to that place, you have to be a little nervous, a little uncomfortable, maybe even a little embarrassed. You might need to need to step out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to feel a little awkward, you may need to eat something you normally wouldn’t….or you may need to get naked in front of strangers.

Wait what? Well, imagine the scenario. You’ve found cheap flights to Turkey and have looked at some cheap Istanbul hotels. You’ve researched the many things you want to do, sites you want to see, and delicious local delicacies you want to eat. Then you arrive and find out that one thing you shouldn’t miss out on is a visit to a hammam. So you find one recommended by other travelers and arrive to find out that engaging in this local practice means showing off some of your private parts in a not so private setting….

In countries like Turkey and Morocco, visiting a hammam, or Turkish bath, is a part of everyday life. Hammams are bathhouses that contain three chambers: a hot room to steam, a warm room to scrub, and a cooler room to relax. Not all hammams have the same layout, but they all involve a hot marble steam room where patrons can soak in the sweltering heat, and an area where you can get scrubbed down by a professional (or do it yourself). Most larger hammams are divided by gender, with separate sides for men and women, but within each side, partial nakedness (you’ll wear underpants, but going topless) is the norm.

A little skeeved out? Don’t be. Just check out our guide to Turkish baths to learn how to blend in and minimize your own embarrassment – and really that’s the key. While you may feel completely exposed and as though you’re living your worst nightmare (you know..the one where you’re in a crowded room with no clothes on), no one else cares. They’re there to relax, and (if their an uncomfortable foreigner too) chances are they are more worried about their own comfort level than they are checking out the bodies of other people. It may seem awkward at first, but rest assured the experience is worth a few moments of blushing. So trip down, lather up, and enjoy.

Photo by dreamiurg