The one thing you don’t want to be called when you’re butt naked at a Turkish hammam

After my incredibly awkward Vietnamese massage you’d understand why I was packing myself about visiting a Turkish hammam.

It doesn’t help my nerves that it takes an hour and the assistance of at least 20 different Turkish men to find the place in the pouring rain.

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The price is exorbitant but I’ve walked around for so long I just want to get this over with. And I guess that’s the price you pay to visit the oldest functioning hammam in Istanbul.

After I pay I’m led to my private changing room. I strip down to just my undies, cover myself in a tiny tea-towel looking wrap, slide on impossibly impractical clogs and head for the hammam.

As I enter one of my clogs falls off and jandal slaps the marble floor making a loud echoing thud. There’s about 20 naked woman staring at me now. So much for blending in.

I gingerly de-robe and lie on my back starfishing the warm marble slab.

It feels good. It helps that I’m almost hypothermic from the walk here and a bit hung over from my first Turkish party.

30 minutes of sweating later and there’s a tap at my foot.

It’s time.

A large Turkish woman extends her hand and guides me to a secluded area of the marble slab for my sand-papering.

Before I lie down she grabs my undies and rolls them up into a g-string. I’m mise well be totally naked.

I lie face up as she begins to scrub. She’s giving me a look. I know this look. It’s the same one the lady who gave me a pedicure in Vietnam had after having to take a cheese grater looking object to my feet. It’s the look of: I’m not paid enough to deal with this shit.

I embarrassedly apologise and try and explain that it’s all South East Asia’s fault.

Just to make a point she grabs my hand and rubs it against my legs which are covered in layers of rolled up dirt-blackened skin.

She must hate me.

She continues the vigorous scrubbing but then out of the blue she grabs my cheeks and remarks, “like a baby.”

Ok, that feeling of being naked and vulnerable from my Vietnamese massage is returning.

What the hell does she mean by “like a baby?”

After she’s scrubbed my tan off she leads me by the hand to a big fountain of water in the corner. On the way we pass a group of four Turkish woman and she again remarks “like a baby.” They all giggle.

Next she makes me sit on the marble floor crossed-legged as she shampoos my hair and again as she’s throwing buckets of warm water over me she’s exclaiming, “like a baby, my little baby.”

I interpret this to mean one of three things.

One: she thinks I’m under-developed for my age.

Two: I look like a total newbie to the hammam.

Three: she’s done such a good job with the exfoliating my skin is now like that of a babies.

Just like in Vietnam I’ll never know what she meant, but here’s hoping for option three.

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One thought on “The one thing you don’t want to be called when you’re butt naked at a Turkish hammam

  1. Pingback: My year in review | Today I ate a baguette

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