Turkish baths, also known as hamams, hold a unique place in Turkish culture. For centuries, these public bathing houses have served a dual purpose – not only for cleansing but also for medicinal and spiritual rejuvenation.
It is believed that indulging in a hamam session can aid in weight management and provide profound relaxation. Moreover, bathing plays a pivotal role in the Islamic prayer ritual, as it necessitates washing hands, head, and feet before prayer.
However, in Turkey, men and women have separate sections within Turkish baths. As a female visitor to Turkey, navigating the women’s section of a Turkish Bath and understanding what to expect can be a bit challenging.
In this guide, we will provide insights into Turkish baths for women, offering you a comprehensive understanding of what to anticipate and what attire to don during your visit.
What to Expect from Turkish Baths for Women?
If you’ve ever had the chance to experience a Roman Bath and envision yourself soaking in a hot pool surrounded by unfamiliar faces, gazing at intricate mosaics adorning the walls, engaging in light conversation, and contemplating life, it’s time to adjust your expectations.
A Turkish Bath is a departure from the Roman Bath experience. While it’s true that the concept was inspired by the Romans who once occupied Constantinople (now ancient Istanbul) before the Ottomans took over, the Ottomans added their own distinct flair to the tradition of public bathing.
The architectural design and the underlying bathing tradition are the only common threads between the two, to some extent, with the bathing room being a shared feature. However, beyond these similarities, a Turkish hamam is a world apart.
So, what should you anticipate when stepping into a Turkish bath?
As mentioned earlier, one notable distinction is the separation of men and women in traditional Turkish hamams. The core bathing ritual remains similar for both genders, but in a Turkish hamam, the focus leans more toward a massage ritual than a conventional bath.
Turkish hamams offer a variety of services, including Bali massages, Thai massages, and hot stone massages, which are administered by either a tellak (male attendant) or a natir (female attendant).
For female visitors, the service will be provided exclusively by a natir.
If it’s your first time, your natir will expertly guide you through the entire experience.
A traditional Turkish hamam session typically consists of a 45-minute bathing ritual. This ritual involves a traditional body scrub using a handwoven washcloth, locally known as a “kese,” followed by a luxurious foam wash, and concluding with a soothing massage.
It’s important to note that some hamams have separate operating hours for men and women. Therefore, it’s advisable to check the opening times for the women’s section of Turkish baths before planning your visit.
What happens during a Turkish bath?
To begin, you’ll receive a peshtemal, a lightweight cotton towel used to drape around yourself during the bath. Typically, you’ll also be provided with a standard towel for drying off after your bath, but it’s a wise idea to bring your own just in case.
Most historic baths offer a designated dressing room where you can change into your bathing attire and secure lockers to store your belongings.
Once you’re prepared, your bath attendant will escort you into the warm section of the hamam, marking the commencement of your unique bathing experience.
You’ll be invited to sit and unwind beside a small marble basin called a “kurna.” This area is somewhat akin to a steam room, intended to open your pores and prepare you for the next stage.
After spending some time seated near the kurna, your natir will proceed to give you a thorough scrub-down. This part of the experience is typically conducted in private, as most bathing spaces are designed to ensure your privacy.
Following the scrub, you’ll be asked to recline on a “gobektasi,” which resembles a heated marble slab located in the warm section of the hamam. Here, your natir will pamper you with a foam-filled cloth massage.
Once your natir completes the massage, you have the option to linger in the bath area and savor the experience, or you can rinse off and depart. Many find the bath section to be the highlight of their visit. Typically, it comprises a pool set in an intricately adorned room, often featuring a majestic central dome. These bathing chambers can vary, being either private or shared with individuals of the same gender.
Are Turkish Baths Always Seperated?
If you’re planning a trip to Turkey with your spouse and you’re hoping to enjoy a Turkish hamam experience together, you might be curious if it’s possible.
We understand the desire to share this memorable experience, but unfortunately, finding a hamam that offers services for couples is quite rare. This is because the tradition is to separate men and women, and most hamams prefer to uphold these traditions.
If you’re specifically interested in a couples massage or shared spa experience, you may have better luck at luxury 5-star hotels. For instance, The Ritz Carlton in Istanbul, Ciragan Palace Kempinski, and Catma Mescit Hamam are known to offer couples suites in their hamams.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to be a guest at these hotels to access their spa services. You can simply book the treatment packages directly from their websites.
What do Women wear to a Turkish Hamam?
Authentic Turkish baths traditionally involve nudity, but when it comes to women, the choice of being naked or wearing a bathing suit during the bath is often left to the individual.
However, it’s important to note that some hamams may require women to wear a bathing suit. This policy can vary depending on the specific establishment, so it’s advisable to check their rules before your visit.
If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to bring your bathing suit with you. In case you forget, most hamams usually offer the option to purchase one at the reception, although it may not always be the most flattering choice.
FAQS About Women Visiting Turkish Hamams
Here are some of the frequently asked questions we receive about Turkish hammams for women.
Do you need swimsuit for a hamam?
In the majority of cases, wearing a swimsuit is required when visiting a Turkish hamam. However, it’s worth noting that certain traditional hamams offer women the option to decide whether they prefer to be unclothed or wear a bathing suit during their visit.
Should I shave before a Turkish bath?
There is no specific requirement for any body preparation before your visit to a Turkish hamam. Whether you choose to shave or not shave is entirely a matter of personal preference, and there are no set guidelines in this regard.
Do they scrub your face in hamam?
Typically, the hamam experience includes a thorough full-body scrub. However, if you have a preference for your attendant not to scrub your face, you can communicate this preference to them at the outset of your session.
How long should I stay in a Turkish bath?
The customary bathing ritual typically extends for approximately 45 minutes, and it is advisable to remain in the hot bathing room for an additional 15-20 minutes afterward. Prolonging your stay beyond this duration may inadvertently expose you to the risk of heat exhaustion without your awareness. It is advisable not to linger for an extended period in the steam room, as your body may not tolerate it, and you could potentially faint. Please exercise caution in this regard.