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Is The Turkish Hamam At Swiss˘tel The Bosphorus Ho-Hum?

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  Site Where: Bayildim Cad. No.2 Macka, Istanbul, Turkey, 34357 Besi
October 18, 2012 at 11:45 AM | by | ()

No, itĺs not, and more than that, itĺs a treatment that challenges your sense of personal space.

But letĺs start at the beginning. During our recent trip to Istanbul this year, it seemed that it would almost be a crime to not have a Turkish hamam in Turkey. So we headed to the Amrita Spa at the five-star Swissotel The Bosphorus hotel.

With a health club and indoor pool attached, we knew that this spa was a good choice because it was filled with locals as well as tourists. There was already a good vibe at the check-in counter, where you could see a dimly-lit pool within the inner sanctum of the spa. With our escort, we walked deeper inside until we reached the changing room with all its many amenities: showers, sauna, private rooms, etc. Once we were wrapped in our towels for modestyĺs sake and ushered into the hamam, our coverings were removed and modesty was now forever damned. This was the exact point when the hamam experience became interesting.

There are very few times in oneĺs life, other than in childhood, when you are bathed by another individual, particularly when that individual is a stranger. And yet, here you are: submissively being bathed. It is a strangely intimate and sensual experience, without any consequential creepiness.

First we were seated by our attendant close to one of the marble bathing basins. She proceeded to pour bowls of alternately hot and cool water over our heads. Once we were drenched, we lay on a raised heated marble slab and were scrubbed more thoroughly than we ever have been scrubbed before with a rough mitt called a kese. It felt so good it was like having a hard-to-reach itch scratched. Again, by a stranger.

This might also be the time to mention that men and women have separate hamam rooms, but there can, and usually will be, other members of the same sex enjoying a hamam at the same time as you. To reiterate: intimate but not creepy.

Once the top-to-bottom scrub was complete, we were lathered with a big fluffy... sponge, maybe? (Frankly, we donĺt know what it was because, at this point, we had our eyes closed and were in a blissed-out reverie.) Bowls of warm water were then poured over us to wash away the soap. Just when we thought it was over, we were moved over to the seat by the basin again and the attendant proceeded to wash our hair. Once again, bowl after bowl of water washed away all.

At the end of the treatment, we felt like we had shared this oddly intimate experience with someone we will, most likely, never see again.

Our advice to you? Put aside your inhibitions and surrender to this decadent tradition. And do it where you can have a luxurious relaxing experience instead of an unsettling bare-all episode.

A 30-minute hamam at Amrita is 150 Turkish Lira ($83) or 250 Turkish Lira ($139) for 60-minutes.

[Disclosure: Janice stayed as a guest of Swiss˘tel, but the views expressed are her own.][Photos: Amrita Spa & Wellness/Swiss˘tel The Bosphorus]

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