Journey Woman

GAP Adventures

She Spa-a-a's In Turkey

Shampoo like Lemon Pledge...

When I returned, I was glad Antoinette had gone first. That gave me time to mentally prepare.

Antoinette was sitting on a marble bench, desperately trying to retain her dignity as the red-haired woman scooped up bowls of lukewarm water from a running tap and poured them over Antoinette's head. Spluttering, Antoinette shook the water from her eyes just as Biker Masseuse began vigorously shampooing her hair with a mixture that smelled suspiciously like Lemon Pledge. Another rinse with the plastic bowl, then Antoinette was led to a large marble slab in the centre of the room to await her ultimate fate.

Nervously, I watched as Biker Masseuse rinsed Antoinette's bench, then approached me. Within seconds I was soaking wet, and my attendant was grinding shampoo into my scalp with the enthusiasm of a prize-winning baker kneading dough.

She's a beached seal ...

Soon, I joined Antoinette, and our torturer signalled us to lie face down on the slab. Mouth clamped closed, I flopped down, feeling like a piece of steak in a butcher-shop window. The masseuse began gesturing urgently, but we didn't understand that she wanted Antoinette to move. No matter. She simply grabbed Antoinette by the ankles and towed her across the oily surface.

Steak was the wrong image. We were actually, as Antoinette observed with a smothered giggle, beached seals.

And soon we were seals scrubbed within an inch of our lives with pungent olive oil soap. Our attendant missed nothing with her loofah, not even our faces. Once she was done, I looked down in dismay to see little grey bits of something all over my reddened flesh. "Skin," explained Biker Masseuse succinctly.

Like ten rounds with Muhammad Ali...

The massage that followed bore little resemblance to the somnolent experience at a Western spa. No warm towels, no muted strains of Enya in the background, no aromatherapy oils. We were pushed and pummelled until we felt we had gone 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali. At the end of the controlled attack, our masseuse slapped each of us on the rump and pronounced "Finish!" in a triumphant voice.

Finish, indeed. Wobbly and discombobulated, we made our way back to our cubicle and dressed. Then we stumbled up the stairs and through the cotton curtain, blinking as we emerged into the dazzling late-afternoon sunlight and dry, 37-degree celcius heat. After the humidity of the hamam, the weather felt positively bracing.

He showers at home...

We had considered taking the bus back to our hotel, but since my damp hair had begun solidifying into an unusual, lemon-scented sculpture, I suggested we save ourselves some public embarrassment by taking a cab. Soon, we were in a taxi with a young driver eager to practise his English.

When we told him where we'd been, he frowned. "Do you go to a hamam?" Antoinette asked.

"Oh, no," he said in tones that implied we'd asked him if he clubbed wild boar for dinner and cooked it over an open fire in a cave. "I have a shower at home."

More on how to get to Turkey and staying well while you're there. ...


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