"Her Spa Stop" features luxury destinations where
life's daily stresses will be soothed away by gentle
massage, low-fat, tasty food, and awe-inspiring
surroundings. Not this time. Hold onto your seats.
Prepare to be transported, by Ottawa writer Laura
Byrne Paquet, to a decidedly different (and really
fun) spa experience. Laura, a member of the Journeywoman
Our guide couldn't believe I wanted to
go to a public hamam-a Turkish bath. In a hopeful
voice she reminded me there was a nice hamam in
I had seen
the Turkish bath in the Falez Hotel, a glitzy establishment
overlooking the Mediterranean in the Turkish resort
of Antalya. Indeed, it did look nice. In fact, it
looked like a Western spa. Antoinette, a fellow
writer, and I agreed that we hadn't come all the
way to Turkey for an experience we could have had
back home. I assured our guide that we'd rather go to
a real Turkish bath.
what she expects...
she sent us to the Nazir, a hamam tucked behind
the Tekeli Mehmet Pasa mosque in Kaleiçi, the old
quarter of the city. Like most Turkish baths, this
one reserved certain times of day for women. We
arrived in the mid-afternoon.
plastic sign advertising RC Cola dangled over the
Nazir. Below it, a threadbare cotton curtain hung
in the narrow doorway. Pulling that aside, we stood
at the top of a set of stairs opening onto a dim,
round room that had the dank smell of a YWCA, minus
black thong & flip-flops...
slim teenaged blonde wearing a white bra and bikini
bottom stood at a small counter near the entrance.
On the main floor of the hamam we spied a beefy
woman with cropped red hair who looked as though
she would be more than a match for a Hell's Angels
gang. She wore only black thong underwear, a gold
chain, and flip-flops, and she looked up at us expectantly.
with many interjections of the few Turkish words
we knew and a lot of hand signals, we indicated
that we wanted a shampoo, bath, and massage. The
price for the package was three million Turkish
lira, about $7.50 Canadian. "What a deal!" we assured
each other as we made our way to the tiny wooden
changing stall the young woman had pointed out.
strips down to her glasses...
knowing exactly how to proceed, we
stripped down to our panties and wrapped ourselves
in small cotton towels that looked more appropriate
to drying dishes than covering bodies. Not
thinking clearly, I kept my glasses and Antoinette
left her watch on.
the steamy main bath, an octagonal room lit by cutouts
in the stone roof. Water gurgled continually from
numerous taps, and sluiced away through open channels
in the floor. The only other bathers, an elderly
woman and a toddler, were naked; we immediately
realized we were overdressed. I returned to the
stall with our remaining personal possessions, while
Antoinette submitted to the ministrations of the