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.


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.


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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