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Turkish Hamams

By: Camille Hoheb
Posted: October 26, 2010, from the November 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Cemberlitas hamam spa

Cemberlitas Hamam features a large dome in the hararet and natural light streaming through glass pinpoints called elephant eyes.

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During my visit, I noticed that the staff consisted of all older women who wore loose-fitting smocks and used a combination of nonverbal communication techniques consisting of smiles, head nods and gestures. Asli Avcu, the facility’s public relations manager, explained that all staff members know each other from the neighborhood, and their profession has been passed down from generation to generation.

The belly stone in the women’s section of the hamam can accommodate approximately 10 females at a time, while the men have a larger marble platform that allows for 50 bathers. The elephant eyes of the dome in this hamam were large and colorful, giving the natural lighting of the hararet a hypnotic, mystical look. Most hamams feature clear elephant eyes that are smaller glass domes and create the look of stars or pinpoints of light. The faucet shape and fixtures had a more modern look, which served as an interesting backdrop for the attendants who seemed to harken from another era.

I took my attendant’s cues in terms of transitioning through the hamam experience; this time, I also chose the Luxury Style Hamam Treatment, which cost $80 at this facility. Kese, the scrubbing and peeling of the skin, is rejuvenating, and the foamy, soapy massage is unique to the hamam, with the purpose of promoting mental relaxation. The manipulation and bodywork performed acted as a good send off on my last day in Istanbul.

A hamam like no other

Each hamam was distinct in its design and style of service. What I enjoyed most was the incredible architectural design, history and culture all available in the thoroughly modern and beautiful city of Istanbul. When I asked Dr. Karagulle about the difference between hamam with two m’s and with one, he explained it is like ordering coffee. Hamam with one “m” denotes it is more Turkish than Arabic. You have to stress that you want Turkish coffee since there are a variety of coffee types, but a Turkish hamam is a hamam like no other. His analogy could not have been more perfect.

Camille Hoheb has performed strategic planning and directed both operations and marketing in the health industry for two decades. She earned her master’s degree in health care administration, holds several certifications from the National Institutes of Health and currently sits on the Innovation Council of the Medical Tourism Association and on the advisory boards of both Health Tourism Magazine and Corporate Health Magazine.