Scrubbed Squeaky Clean


“Well, we’re about to get to know each other better, real fast,” I said to Kirsten, as we stood in the open locker room and removed our clothing one piece at a time. Down to nothing but our underwear, we each grabbed a small plaid towel to cover our important parts, and peered around the corner and into the steaming hammam.

Turkish Hamam


The three other occupants of the dull grey and white room barely paid us notice. We slipped around to the far side and each took a spot beside one of the nine small tubs in the sauna. We looked at each other, and then around, not quite sure what to do next.

Hammam tapsThe attendant motioned to us to rinse our bodies, but not to shampoo our hair. The antique brass taps squeaked as we opened them to fill our individual tubs. Our towels placed aside, we were near naked again, and drowning ourselves with bucket after bucket of cool water.

We rested on the hard marble steps, satisfied with our rinsing and awaiting our turn. We watched as the two ladies in before us were scrubbed, rinsed, soaped, and rinsed again on a large marble platform that sat in the center of the room.

I was nervous. This wasn’t my first trip to a hammam, Pete and I had visited one in Morocco, but that was a tourist-designed affair with scented candles and mood lighting. This was the real deal, a traditional Turkish bath in a small town without even a word of English spoken. Lights were bright, inhibitions were few, but what I feared most was the scrubbing. I’ve read tales of skin rubbed until raw and being sore to touch for days to follow.

Kirsten went first. I continued to sit on the hard marble, enjoying the sensation of dumping repeated buckets of cool water over my head as a relief from the warm sauna. I began to feel the pruning of my fingertips but still maintained a steady but peaceful pace of filling the bucket and pouring again.

Hammam towelsMy turn came. With my small plaid towel laid out on an edge of the large marble platform, I laid face down. After the very first stroke on my left shoulder, flakes of dry skin accumulated and spilled onto the floor. “Ohhhh!” my scrubber said, laughing.

Well now, that’s embarrassing.

The assault on my body continued. It didn’t hurt as much as it set my skin alive. When she stopped briefly to rinse the exfoliating cloth such that the only prevailing sensation was my tingling skin, my back felt as if tiny creatures were dancing across it feverishly.

Over I turned and it began again. Only the covered nether regions of my body escaped the vigorous shedding of skin.

Back to the tub to rinse off, and then face down again on the warm marble. Next up was warm soapy luxury slathered anywhere and everywhere, the strong fragrance of the lavender bubbles almost burning my nostrils. Over I turned, and then sat up straight so that my sides and under arms could be done properly.

I was sent to my personal sink for a final rinse, my cleanse was complete. I shampooed my own hair and scrubbed harder than usual, wanting every inch of my being to feel as clean as the other. I was unable to stop myself from running my hands all over my arms, my stomach, to feel the resistance and hear the squeak. Could anyone possibly be cleaner than this? I couldn’t imagine how.

Another pair of acquainted females entered the room, and I liked how the hammam experience appeared to be one shared with a friend or family member – a Turkish ‘girls-day-out‘ as it were. Without inhibition, and in a quiet, covert sort of custom.


All photos by Kirsten Alana.


42 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • May 28 2012

    Oh my gosh I can’t wait to do that! They sound so scary but so great! Where did you go and how much was it? If yu don’t mind me asking!!

    • May 29 2012

      Not so scary at all! It was really great, my only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to go again before leaving. I went in a small town in the NW of Turkey, and it cost 10 TL only (plus buying the cloth, etc.)

      • May 29 2012

        Aaahh cool. What was the town called??? We are heading to turkey in about a week and haven’t finalized any plans. Do you have any places you recommend we definitely go to?

        • May 30 2012

          It was in Edremit. The area we were in was nice, but I think only if you have lots of time to spend there and really get to know it (there isn’t much for tourist infrastructure), nearby Ayvalik was quite nice and I would recommend that! Depending on how much time you have, I would highly recommend time in Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus and Pamukkale. That is just what we saw, the country has so many amazing sights in other regions as well…

  • May 28 2012

    I have yet to experience a Hammam but I think it is definitely something I need to do at least once! πŸ™‚

    • May 29 2012

      Once or more! Been twice now, and I’d love to go again. πŸ™‚

  • Chrystal McKay
    May 28 2012

    I just wrote about my Moroccan hammam today too! But I went to a luxury hamman – not a public hammam. That is up next! I have the exact reserves – I didn’t know if I could strip off completely in public. And I was nervous about the process as I’ve never had one before. The luxury hammam turned out to be a perfect introduction. They ARE incredible though? I didn’t get scrubbed TOO hard – but lots of skin lost too. haha.

    • May 29 2012

      It was quite embarrassing, how much skin flaked off me! But it felt soooo good.

  • A Montrealer Abroad
    May 28 2012

    As much as I would like to experience one of the famous Turkish hammams, I would be terrified too! Undressing in front of people is not something I’m comfortable with, even at the gym. But I guess for the sake of tradition, I would have to suck it up!

    • May 29 2012

      Nah, undressing in front of people didn’t worry me at all. We all gotta shake what our mamma’s gave us! It was just the pain of it that I was worried about (which I didn’t need to be!)

  • May 28 2012

    Even though everyone raves about how *clean* you feel after going to a hammam, I still don’t think I could be comfortable with a stranger scrubbing me like that… makes me all squirmy to even think about!
    Amanda recently posted..The Lazy Person’s Way to Bike the Golden Gate Bridge

    • May 29 2012

      Really? I dunno, I had no issues with that at all. To each their own! πŸ™‚

  • Jarmo
    May 28 2012

    Sounds like a nice experience; it’s always interesting to experience different saunas around the world, haven’t done a Turkish one yet.

  • May 29 2012

    I am with Amanda. At first, I loved Turkish baths but then for some reason, did not want strangers touching me anymore. Hubby keeps pestering to go to ladies day and mother in law says she will go with me as well, but I just can not. Shame because I am desperately in need of one

    • May 29 2012

      Huh. That part really doesn’t bother me at all, but maybe after a time it would. The lady was so nice and friendly to us, maybe that makes for a different experience.

  • Ali
    May 29 2012

    This just does not sound fun to me. I don’t like normal massages because I think they hurt, so the idea of an extremely vigorous scrub in a Turkish bath sounds awful. I know, I’m in the minority here.

    • May 30 2012

      I’m a masochist I think, I like the tough massages too! πŸ™‚

  • May 29 2012

    I find those hammam ladies just a little intimidating – but that’s an oddly charming part of the experience, too.

    • May 30 2012

      The whole experience is a unique one, that is for sure…

  • I have to do this at least once, even though I am not a fan of strangers touching me. I’d be curious as to how much skin would flake off me!
    Annette | Bucket List Journey recently posted..Getting Bit By An Ostrich. Not on the Bucket List.

    • May 30 2012

      It is quite disgusting, actually, at least it was for me! And I had done one just a couple of months prior! It was quite embarrassing. (You’ve been warned!) πŸ™‚

  • May 30 2012

    I’m noticing a definite bias towards ladies being interested in this post. I guess men are just grubbier πŸ˜‰ Where was Pete during this adventure?

    • June 1 2012

      Ha! Good point! Pete did it with me in Morocco and enjoyed it (we were able to do a “couples” bath!) but at this one they had separate times for men and women. I guess he didn’t want to go on his own.

  • I’m not super modest so I don’t think I’d have an issue with the touching aspect of things, but I don’t know if my skin could survive that! I have super sensitive skin that turns red if there’s even moderately friction, so I’d be raw as a newborn rat. But damn, it’d be cool to see all that dry skin disappear… πŸ˜›

    • June 1 2012

      Oooh…that would be tough then. Probably a little paniful. πŸ™

  • Joanie Joan
    May 30 2012

    Hey! happy to hear that your skin wasn’t entirely rubbed off of your body like you feared it might be. Sounds like exactly what I need! We’ve learned about this in Herbology, actually. So good for you on many levels! My skin is hella dry, there’d probably be two of me left. Gross! πŸ˜‰ xo

    • June 1 2012

      Gross, indeed! I’m sure they had to vacuum up the room when I left, there was such a pile, I’m sure it wouldn’t fit in any drain! xo

  • June 1 2012

    Wow! This is something I will have to try if I ever get to Turkey… one day. Brilliant descriptive text. Lovely photos. Everything. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    • June 1 2012

      I hope you do make it there!

  • shalimar
    May 31 2012

    i also went to turkey early may and experienced the famous turkish bath,,it was funny and weird at the same time…my friends and i just cant stop laughing remembering our facial reactions during the whole thing,,,indeed we were soo clean after,,,its an experience really worth remembering and welll recommended!!!

  • I loved the Turkish bath although it was a bit… um… surprising at the time (none of my bits and pieces were covered).

    When I make my way back there, I will be sure to go back as many times as possible. My favorite part was when they washed my hair.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from … Buenos Aires – Tacky

    • June 3 2012

      Aw, I wanted them to wash my hair too! Next time…

  • I missed getting a scrub down when I was in Turkey. I had a really good tan at the time, and I didn’t want it rubbed clean off my body.

    • June 3 2012

      I had the same concern. I think I am a shade whiter.

  • June 12 2012

    When I went to my first hammam in Istanbul, I kept my bikini on…so my attendant felt like she should be modest and ended up putting a bra on! Glad I went in the morning though as the baths get busier during the day and the scrubbing becomes a lot quicker.
    Natasha recently posted..5 Things I Learnt About Galician Culture in Galicia, Spain

  • June 13 2012

    I would be a little nervous too. I am too ticklish. I don’t know if I can be rubbed without starting to laugh. It has happened during massaged and pedicures.
    Ruth (Tanama Tales) recently posted..Car Rental Nightmare

  • July 17 2012

    Great post, nice detail. This sounds far better than my experience where I unfortunately was sore to touch! It is a good experience to share with a friend though, completely allows you to overcome your inhibitions.

  • I’ve always wanted to go to a Turkish Bath. Seems like you need to choose your bath buddy wisely πŸ™‚

    • July 22 2012

      Huh, I suppose. I’m not really shy when it comes to stuff like that I guess!

  • July 22 2012

    When you wrote that some Turkish bath makes one’s skin cleaned to the sore, I was deeply thinking about my tatts when I get one. haha. I feared I might be scrubbing off me but honestly, I was surprise how women like to be in a public bath. This is somewhat liberating though unthinkable in the place where I am from.


  • December 9 2016

    We visited the hammam in Turkey and found it a really interesting experience! My daughter, who was 11 at the time, and I went to the lady’s side and my husband and son, who wss 9 at the time, went to the men’s side. We all wore swimsuits though not necessary and had a great time exploring the local experience. I can see why it is such a part of life…relaxing and a great way to visit with friends and family. We could take a lesson to spend some time to slow down and take care of ourselves more!
    Natalie recently posted..5 tips for Christmas holiday travel – with KIDS

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