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Healing in a hammam in istanbul


It was my third attempt to book this Hamman.

 

I knew I wanted to experience these incredible bathing rituals. When I shared on my Instagram story that I was heading to Istanbul my niece messaged me to say how much she loved the city and recommended a Hammam near where we were staying.

 

I tried to book for Simon and me, but he decided he wasn’t quite ready for one. So, I put it on pause.

 

Then I messaged them and booked for the next day, but I mistakingly ate ground beef at lunchtime and decided to cancel. I have a red meat allergy after a tick bite. The allergic reaction can take up to 6 hours to appear and I decided a hot and sweaty Hammam thrown into the mix could be disastrous. It was the right decision. A quiet afternoon napping and watching TV meant that I had no reaction which was a huge result.

 

Simon woke up the next morning.

“Make sure you rebook the spa today, prioritise it.”

So, I messaged the Hammam, and they came back with an appointment at 12:30pm.

 

I arrived early, they said they were full and to come back in 20 minutes. I did. The kindest looking therapist greeted me before I was whisked off to the changing rooms. They offer you a disposable bikini, but I knew, and my daughter Cally knew, that that would not work for a post menopausal bosom like mine.

“Mum it will only cover your nipples” and she was right.

 Luckily, I had taken my bonds bralette and knickers with me. On they went.



 

My phone, my wallet and my clothes were left in the changing room, which miraculously locked after me. I walked down the stairs into the main ‘rest area’ and was immediately whisked away by Fez, my therapist. She took my glasses off me, removed my cotton sarong and took my hand and led me into the Hammam. The marble was warm under my buttocks, and she ran hot water into a marble sink and then instructed me to scoop water up into a brass bowl and pour it over my body. I sat there for about five minutes steaming and rinsing myself and then she returned with the scrubbing mit.

 

Every inch of my body was scrubbed, the sun-baked summer skin, exfoliated off in a hot steamy second. My skin reddened under the abrasiveness of the mit, tiny grey rolls of dead skin appeared all over my body. More rinsing, more scrubbing, back then front, every crease, under boobs, arm pits, behind ears…the lot.

 

First stage done, Fez kindly holds my hands and leads me onto the Hammam in the centre of the room. It is warm, I am given a rubber pillow for my head. She lies me down on my back on my cotton sarong. And the bubble cloud drops, soft, light like a kiss from a goddess, a fairy godmother, I melt, soft warm bubbles plopped from thin air, warm pillows of suds tenderizing my wounds. Fez starts to massage me, with a firm but soft touch, my front and then my back, thoroughly attending to every part of my body. As I am rinsed with warmer water, I realise I am the only one left now. An empty Hammam just me and Fez, her bathing me like a mother would her baby.

She starts to wash my hair, gentling massaging my head, a thorough wash over my head and ears. Another rinse…

She asks if I want a cold rinse, I had heard the squeals from the previous Hammamers and immediately say yes. My recent Ice plunge with Benny at Pearces Creek Hall, means I am prepared. She stands above me on the marble bench I am sitting on. Pours it over me like the ALS ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ of years ago. I say nothing as the cold water drenches me. She asks if I want another one, again a furious cold blast of cold water. I wipe my eyes. She looks at me like a proud mother “Brava, Brava”,

 

Again, she takes my hands and leads me into the ante room, she asked me to sit, and she starts to dry me, like I used to dry my children, like I saw my mother dry my children. Tears well up in my eyes, she then starts to towel dry my hair, I look at her and say I am finding it very emotional; she holds my hands and I start to sob; she looks at me with such tenderness, I am now howling, she pulls me into her bosom and strokes my hair, softly speaking to me in Turkish. I look at her, she looks at me, and then she starts to cry, two women sobbing in a Hammam in Istanbul, two women saying no words, just trusting our inner knowing. Slowly the tears come to an end. My cradling is eased. I say thank you, she says thank you. Another therapist walks by and asks if I am ok, “Yes’, I reply. Fez disappears and comes back with tissues. We both wipe our eyes. Take a moment to honour the sacredness of what just happened.

She gives me a tiny pair of pants to put on. I remove my wet bonds bikini and she rinses them out, pops them in a zip lock bag and adds in the scrubbing mit she used on me. Fez then wraps me in my crisp cotton towel, then does same with my hair and head.

 

All mummified with red puffy eyes, I am led again to a quiet area with white sun loungers, and whispy curtains . I am gently placed on the bed and she leaves me to fetch some tea and water.

 

Fez holds my hands for one last time, acknowledging our connection, a deeply healing session in this wild and exciting city. My gratitude is brimming over as I thank her for such a beautiful experience.

 

I was held in love, I was released, I am clean, I am renewed, I am free.

 

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