Can’t Touch This: The Hammam and I

Goreme hammamI’ve been called a glutton for hammam punishment, and perhaps I am. But who can resist, I ask, when absurdity, nay, downright DANGER lurks behind each scrubbing hand?

Now, perhaps friends and family will remember my Moroccan Hammam experience (dirt roads, cement floors, Abu Ghraib-like room, naked North African women climbing on top of me, a scrubbing so intense it straightened my hair for 2 days)?

Needless to say, I was still pretty convinced I remained clean (if not mentally scarred) from that experience, and had no plans to indulge in the Turkish hammam this time around. Then what with my back getting thrown out, and not having much to do here in Goreme, since I can’t hike, I decided to visit the local hammam, which, I gotta say, seemed downright spa-like … AT FIRST.

No one was really able to communicate all that well in English, but I half knew what to expect, and went into a ladies changing room, stripped down, and wrapped myself in a VERY SMALL cotton sheet.

First a woman painted my face with a clay mask, then I get led into the main hammam room, a giant marble space with an enormous hexagonal marble slab in the center (imagine, if you will, a sacrificial stone, because god knows, that’s what I saw). I then get placed in a dry sauna. All’s good. I’m chilling out in my mini-sheet when in walks a big, old British dude. We awkwardly nod at each other with our clay-painted mugs.

After an egregiously long time, I realize I’ve probably sweat out enough toxins for both this life and my next, but still – nada. No sign of anybody signalling me to leave. I quickly recall a recent news story about the most recent World Sauna Championship title-holder DYING at this year’s competiton (no lie), and scurry out of my own accord.

It’s a this point, a very hairy hammam employee wearing his own VERY SMALL towel, points to the marble slab motioning for me to lay down. I take a glimpse of my surroundings and realize a few things: a) it’s co-ed, not a big deal, but unexpected since it had been touted as having “women only” areas, and b) there’s a strong-looking Turkish woman scrubbing the heck out of a woman around the hexagon bend from me. I survey the scene. All looks pretty normal: her tiny sheet is strategically draped around her, all’s modest. I relax.

hammamSoon, it’s my turn. The strong Turkish woman walks over, and immediately, unexpectedly begins squeezing my chin, and pinching my cheeks – HARD. I gather she likes me. She asks if I’m married or have kids. I say no, she gets very excited, and says “Married. Babies. Problems. No married. No babies. No problems.” We all but high five. Ok, we don’t, but she did squeeze my chin really hard again.

She then leads me to another section of slab, lays me out, and promptly and strategically adjusts my towel so that I am COMPLETELY EXPOSED to the room. I try to adjust myself, but quicker than I can say, “Holy crap, I just flashed the hammam!” she just dives in to the job. I get buffed, rubbed, pounded, squeezed and more – and to keep things interesting, she periodically squeezed perilously close to my lady parts for comfort.

The she spins me over, bare-assed, on the marble. All I can imagine is the girl before me, all covered and demure. WHY ME?? She wedges my towel semi-close to my rear, and continues her cleaning/assault.

At this point, on my belly, eyes scrunched shut, I decided to peek around and see the scene. Oh my eyes. My poor eyes. Across the slab from me, white as the driven snow, like a beached and hairy whale, lay the British man. Naked as a jaybird. His parts swaying in the breeze for all to see. Undulating, even, with the buffing actions of his hammam man.

At this point, I’m in horror and unable to react quick when my strong Turk utters the word “heart” a few times, rolls me over, and gives me a booby massage.

As if that weren’t enough excitement for one hammam, upon leaving the place, the hammam man in his tiny towel is blocking the entrance, with a BIRD on his shoulder. A BIRD. INSIDE the hammam. After I point in shock, my hand is grabbed, and I’m told the bird will climb my arm, “the bird loves it” I am told. At this the damn bird RUNS across the man’s back as far from me as possible. They try to move my hand to the other side. Damn bird RUNS back.

I beat a hasty exit, and determine that while hammams and I don’t mix without misadventure, a visit here and there is well-worth it for story alone.

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  1. hahahahahahahahahahahahah!

  2. This is one for the books. literally. I wonder if these predicaments only happen to you. I laughed till the tears came.(giggle tears)

  3. The only thing this story lacks is a miracle cure for your back trouble thanks to the ferocious affections of Nurse Ratched

  4. Doodie, this farrrr surpasses getting buckets of water thrown at us by topless women! remember….SPA hammam – i’m sure it’s the only way to go. xoxox

  5. Oh lady, you had me hanging on every word. And once again, you’re FAR MORE brave than I. OMG, VAL! I thought Morocco was rough. LOL.
    LOVE your openness and NO FEAR attitude!

  6. Well that’s an experience you won’t soon forget (again!)

    Glad your travels are fun and crazy! Stay safe Val, I look forward to reading more! (And say hi to Ayaz for me!)

    Katie B

  7. I’m guessing that, since you posted this out here, you’re ok with my having sent it out on Twitter. Right? 🙂

  8. Val, awesome post! This sounds very similar to my massage in Korea where I was also laid out completely naked on the table, and the masseuse (woman, luckily, i guess) rubbed oil all over me feverishly and kept slapping my butt. She also did my “massage” wearing nothing but her bra and underwear, which was almost the most disconcerting.