Food & Fitness

Hamam Comparison

In December 2006, my sister was living in Istanbul, so I went there for a few weeks to spend Christmas with her (if you’ve never been to Turkey, you should definitely go if you get the chance! It’s gorgeous). One of the best things we did there was to experience the hamam.

Hamams are the Turkish baths. They involve being washed by Turkish women in a very large communal room (although separate for men and women) and being exfoliated and massaged. It’s a very hot, steamy room, and this kind of spa treatment is just fantastic. The hamam that we went to is this one here: a really big building with so much history! The architecture was beautiful. And that huge stone slab in the centre of the room? That’s where you lie down and have the treatment administered to you.

After enjoying the hamam so much in Turkey, we decided that as a Christmas present last year to ourselves and to my mum we would go to the exclusive TenSpa hamam here in Winnipeg. And yesterday we finally spoiled ourselves and went to the hamam!

The North American version was very much different from the Turkish one. For one thing, it was a lot cleaner:) We were given huge comfy bathrobes and there was cay (Turkish tea) and fruits and muffins available. Bottles of water were displayed everywhere for the taking.

After relaxing and nibbling on some apricots, the three of us were led out of the waiting room and into a smaller room where we adjusted to a warmer temperature and ate some Turkish Delight and drank more tea. Then we were taken through to the hamam itself! We were incredibly lucky because there was no one else there that day so we got the whole place to ourselves. The room was deliciously hot and after showering, we rubbed a salt scrub on our skin and then three attendants came in and had us lie down on a large stone slab while they massaged our scalps and legs and feet, poured water over us, and rubbed some kind of lotion on us. It felt wonderful. The room was dimly lit and I could’ve just rolled right over and gone for a nap!

When it was finished, we drank more water and stayed in the hamam for a little longer before returning to the smaller room to readjust to a more regular temperature and rub aloe lotion on our skin to rehydrate it. The only glitch that occurred was that my sister fainted from the heat at one point (we’re both prone to doing that in extremely hot temperatures. It can be a bit painful on a harder surface, like collapsing in a shower!), but she recovered quickly. We spent a long time relaxing in another room full of soft couches and drinking a yogurt-seaweed drink before concluding our hamam experience.

I loved it. Loved it loved it loved it. The hamam is so relaxing and pleasant! This version was much more gentle than the one we had in Turkey (the Turkish women just sort of slap you on the bottom when they want you to roll over and such, which was pretty funny), and I found it interesting how at this one we had towels to wear. Not so in Turkey. At the Turkish hamam, everyone is completely naked. And I think that its unfortunate that there are so many body image issues and such an uncomfortable relationship with our bodies that we are too ashamed to replicate the Turkish attitude. Not only that, but it’s really difficult to keep one of the towels from falling off! Such a hassle to keep retying it and hitching it up.

This weekend was also very exciting because not only did I have that lovely spa treatment and spend quality girl time with my mum and sister, but I also decided on a random whim to go to Rome for a couple weeks at the end of August! I will be traveling with the boyfriend and three of his friends. One of them found a great deal on flights so we figured we should just go for it and we bought the tickets. I am very much looking forward to seeing Rome again. And in the spirit of spontaneity, I’m challenging all of you to go out and do something you wouldn’t normally do today! It doesn’t have to be as big as a plane ticket. Or, it can be bigger! Be a little crazy. Enjoy life. What spontaneous thing have you done recently, no matter how big or small?


  1. P.O.M.

    AHHHHH that sounds seriously Delectable~!! I would LOVE that.

    Regarding being spontaneous, not so good at that. I try. I really try. I usually end up regretting it though. ha ha. I’ve embraced my inner-planner.

    Rome will be so fun.Can’t wait to hear about your adventures.

  2. the Bag Lady

    Ooohhh, spa treatment sounds lovely! One of these days…..

    Oh, pretty spontaneous around here. Decided to do some weeding and ended up cleaning up the entire gravel sidewalk. Can ya top that?!

    Seriously, Rome sounds fabulous! Looking forward to your stories when you get back.

  3. Susan

    I love the spa! Ahhhhh, so relaxing.
    Very interesting reading about your hamam experience in Turkey.
    When I lived in Japan, I visited a sento, which is a Japanese public bath. The women were in one area, and the men in a completely different area. Everyone, from young women to elderly, was naked as a Jay bird. You can soak in different hot tubs, both inside and out. I admit I felt awkward, but I gradually got in to the whole experience. It was actually both relaxing and freeing – especially the outdoor baths. Quite the experience, I must say! 🙂

    Rome is awesome! There is TONS to see and do! You’re going to have a blast! 🙂

    Spontaneous event today – Whilst cooking dinner I decided spur of the moment to bake a coffee cake for my husband’s grandmother. Woo-hoo, wild and crazy I tell ya! 😉

  4. Charlotte

    Okay, now you know what to get me for my birthday;) I’m afraid spontaneity runs dry after you have 3 tiny kids though. Not to burst anyone’s bubbles but all those people who say “make the kids conform to your life, not you to theirs” either has a nanny or is deaf.

    I love Rome! Have a great trip!!

  5. JavaChick

    Unfortunately, my skin does not like salt scrubs. But soaking up the steam sounds good.

    I had a spontaneous mini-adventure today. I used to live within walking distance of where I work, and I sometimes miss walking around the area. The sunny day was calling my name, so I took a half hour break from work and went out for a walk around my old routes. It was a very enjoyable interlude in my day.

  6. Big Girl

    The hamam sounds divine, so does the trip to Rome. I’m not sure which one I’m more jealous of.

    Sadly, I can’t think of ANYTHING spontaneous as of late…i better work on that!

  7. Sagan Morrow

    POM- I’m usually not very spontaneous either. You should see the massive pile of lists I’ve got EVERYWHERE. But it always makes me that much more excited when I act spontaneously just because its such a novelty!

    Bag Lady- I’m really tempted to go over to some peoples lawns and weed them for them. They’re so full of weeds its ridiculous!

    Susan- I’ve been all over Europe but I’ve never been to Japan. That sento sounds great! I’d love to try it. And that is so sweet of you to have baked her a cake!

    Loveofoats & MizFit- get thee to a hamam asap:)

    Charlotte- oh the nannying… *shudder*

    Cammy- hot springs baths would be pretty cool. Definitely never done that!

    Javachick- I’m so happy to hear that you took a break to visit an old “haunt”. Doing things like that honestly makes my day.

    Big Girl- You should totally go on a spontaneous walk… you might find another $100 bill! Or splurge on something really unnecessary with your findings as your spontaneous act. Tehehe.

  8. WeightingGame

    at the risk of sounding like a pervert, I think the idea of a large Turkish woman rubbing me with salt and then slapping me on the tush as a signal to turn over sounds like a boatload of fun.

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