Cleanliness is a core part of Islam. Each mosque has a fountain area where men sit and wash their face, hands and feet before entering to pray. Below is the fountain area at the beautiful Suleymaniye Mosque.
Today, John and I visited a hamam which is certainly a cleansing experience. I tracked down the Suleymaniye Hamami which was built in 1557 and now takes only couples and families. Most hamams are for men or women only or sexually segregated with women restricted to certain hours. John and I wanted to share the Turkish bath experience, so we were happy to find one catering to couples.
We shared a small dressing room where we stripped down. John was given a towel to wrap around his waist and I was provided a towel and bikini.
Once clad, we slipped on wooden clogs and entered the main bath chamber. It was a beautiful, marble steam room with a large octagonal slab in the middle. Off this center slab were small open chambers with marble tables upon which you could lay. The walls were lined with stone benches broken only by sinks carved into the marble walls. You are left here to sweat for about 40 minutes. We quickly learned to douse ourselves with cool water from the sinks.
Just when you think you really can’t sweat another drop, the masseuses enter (young men clad only in towels) and begin the process of scrubbing, washing and massaging. The masseuse scrubs, then soaps every exposed part of you — even behind your ears. This is no polite Swedish massage — he smacks and definitely man handles you.
The masseuse douses himself with water from the sinks throughout the process in order to cool down. It is seriously that hot and humid! If I did the work they were doing I would faint dead away.
Once you’re thoroughly exfoliated and clean, you enter another chamber where an attendant hands you a large towel and instructs you to enter a small changing room and strip once again.
When you exit from the changing room with the towel wrapped around you, he takes another towel and fans you. At this point, the air feels marvelously cool. The attendant finishes by wrapping a towel around your head sheik-style. You exit that chamber and enter another where you can sit while sipping on a cold drink or a nice cup of Turkish tea.
Ahhhh! Clean never felt so good!