In a traditional Turkish
men and women are rigidly separated
by gender. Women bathe with
women, and massage is done by masseuses
(females). Men bathe with men,
and are massaged by masseurs (males).
There are no "mixed" or "co-ed" baths.
Ladies, stay away.
No modest Turkish woman would
accept a masseur (male massager).
However, foreign couples and
groups of friends, often want to experience
the Turkish bath together. Some hamams
have adapted to this demand by accepting
foreign men and women at the same time.
In most cases, the foreign bathers
have swimsuits (whereas
in the traditional bath, women wear bikini bottoms, or are naked, and men wear a wrap
called a peştemal below the
So far, there is no well-established
tradition of males giving professional,
respectful massages to women. As a
woman, you may find such a masseur,
and he may act professionally and not
presume any romantic or sexual affiliation
with you; but you cannot assume that
this will be the case.
To avoid any such unplesasantness,
you should receive your massage only
from a female.
Larger, historic hamams (especially
in Istanbul) may have separate
bathing areas for men and
women, but most hamams have only one
set of facilities and segregate the
genders by time:
men bathe at certain hours or on certain
days, women bathe at other hours or
on other days.
Before entering the female section of a hamam, you can ask:
Sırf kadın hamamcı var, değil mi? (SURF kah-duhn hah-mahm-juh vahr deh-YEEL mee)
“The hamam attendants are only women, correct?”
If you have doubts about a certain
hamam's policies, ask about them: women
only? Male attendants or female attendants?
Bathing suits or naked?
Women only: kadınlara mahsus
Men only: erkeklere mahsus
Men & women together: erkek ve kadın
Female massage-giver: kadın masajcı
Male massage-giver: erkek masajcı
With swimsuit: mayolu
Without swimsuit: mayosuz
—by Tom Brosnahan