Step inside a traditional Turkish bath and discover why this centuries-old wellness ritual remains so popular today.
No trip to Fethiye is complete without a visit to a Turkish bath or Hamam, so set aside any prudishness you may have and take the plunge. Savour that feeling of supreme cleanliness that is so different from a Western bath or shower.
The Turkish bath or Hamam, meaning ‘spreader of warmth’, dates back to the Ottoman Empire. It was a place for social gatherings and ritual cleansing related to the Muslim faith. Historically, mothers also visited hamams to find possible brides for their sons.
In Islamic cultures the significance of the hamam was both religious and civic: it provided for the needs of ritual ablutions but also provided general hygiene and served other social functions in the community such as a gendered meeting place for men and for women. Archaeological remains attest to the existence of bathhouses in the Islamic world as early as the Umayyad period (7th–8th centuries) and their importance has persisted up to modern times.
His, hers and unisex
Hamams usually have separate sections for men and women as Islam preaches modesty in relations between adult men and women. Some hamams in tourist areas offer unisex sessions so couples or mixed groups can enjoy the experience together.
There are many hamams in hotels and out-of-town locations, however, the traditional ones can be found in the narrow streets of a town’s old areas and Fethiye is no exception.
The Old Turkish Bath
Fethiye’s Old Turkish Bath is located in the Old Town (Paspatur). It was built, together with the Old Mosque nearby, in the 16th century by Yavuz Sultan Selim.
When you arrive you’ll be given a peştemal, a woven cloth that is used to cover the body in the hamam. They are quite small so you may want to wear a swimsuit too. You will also be given a pair of bathing clogs, nalın, to wear.
Once you’ve changed you’ll enter the inner sanctum, the hararet, where you’ll work your way from warm temperatures to hot and steamy.
Prostrate yourself on the göbek taşı, the hot central marble slab, and allow the heat to penetrate your pores.
Wash and massage
Now you’re ready for the tellak (masseur) who will soap you up and rub you down with a kese (horse hair flannel) giving you a very thorough exfoliation. You won’t believe the amount of dead skin you’ll shed!
Next, you will be kneaded and your limbs manipulated to loosen tight muscles and joints.
Afterwards, wash yourself down, wrap yourself in towels and rest in the relaxation area with a glass of the always present çay.
You’ll emerge feeling clean, glowing, and happy to have taken the plunge and experienced one of Turkey’s age-old traditions.
A word of warning
Although a hamam is a great way to prepare your skin for a long-lasting suntan, it’s not advised if you are sunburned. You should always wear high-factor sun protection.